Today, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which was traditionally celebrated 40 days after Easter (typically fell on a Thursday) and nine days before Pentecost. However, most dioceses in the United States now celebrate this Solemnity on to the following Sunday, and in the case of this year, 2023, the 7th Sunday of Easter.
In today’s First Reading (Act 1:1-11), St. Luke tells us that the story of the earthly Jesus did not end with the empty tomb or with the appearances of Jesus to His disciples over a period of forty days. There was this last event that happened in the presence of his followers, whereby Christ was lifted, body and soul, into the skies until they could see him no more. The question is, what does it mean that Christ was lifted up into the heavens? Where did He go? Scripture tells us that the Ascension of the Lord was the return of Jesus, in body and spirit, to His Father, where He is now “seated at the right hand of God, far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come” (Ephesians 1:20-23). So, the ascension of Christ means that Christ has taken a vantage point above everything created, and has authority and unmatched power over them. This is good news for the Church and all of us as individuals.
As a Church, the ascension of the Lord means that Christ has assumed the throne of command to direct the affairs of the Church, to protect her mission on earth for all ages to come, and to make sure that the gates of hell will never prevail against it. In practical terms, this means that light will inevitably triumph over darkness, love will prevail over hate, justice will prevail over injustice, and every earthly kingdom that does not have a fear of God will invariably collapse. History has attested to this over and over again. Our founding fathers were wise when they included in the Declaration of Independence that our nation is to function under God. Therefore, only in vain does any power work to hinder the mission of the Church on Earth. The kingdom of God will prevail over the kingdoms of this world. Christ told His apostle that He must go back to the Father so that He could send the Holy Spirit to them as an advocate. So, by His ascension, we got the privilege of receiving the Holy Spirit, without whom, we could never have been able to call God, Father, or be drawn to salvation. Without the Holy Spirit, the Church’s mission will fail woefully, and we will not be able to respond to the voice of God.
As individuals, the Ascension of the Lord is a road map for our human life. Just as Christ came from God and returned to Him, all of us will also return to the Father, for we also came from Him. Christ told His apostles, “I shall come back to take you to myself, so that where I am, you also may be.” Moreover, by His ascension, the one who is supposed to be our prosecutor and judge has become our defense lawyer and advocate. Who then shall condemn us? Also, because of where and how Christ is seated, His name is a powerful force we now can use to overcome trials, tribulations, principalities, powers, authorities, and dominions of darkness. We know from Scriptures that the apostles performed many miracles in the Name of Jesus Christ. That same Name is available to us in dealing with everyday troubling situations. May the ascension of the Lord give us renewed hope for eternal life!