We celebrate today the great Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord into Heaven. The first reading tells us that, as the Apostles looked on, “he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.” Jesus has completed his mission on earth and now he returns to his Father. The Psalm response can be taken as referring to Jesus’ return to his glorious place in Heaven: “God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.”
We see clear proof in the Resurrection and the Ascension that Jesus is indeed much more than an ordinary man – he is God incarnate. He is, as the Psalm describes, “the great king over all the earth,” reigning over the nations from his throne in Heaven. He is “the Most High, the awesome.” We are faced with the truth that this Jesus who walked among us as a man for some thirty-three years is someone far greater than we realized, far beyond our usual experience or understanding. We can recall Isaiah’s words: “as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, my thoughts higher than your thoughts” (Is 55:9). Jesus mounts his throne in Heaven amid angelic trumpet blasts; surely we are dealing with matters which are high above us, and seemingly far removed from us.
Yet, while it is true that Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word of God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, is indeed infinitely beyond us, he is at the same time intimately united with us and always close to us. While it can seem that, with his Ascension, he is leaving us, in fact he only leaves the perception of our senses so that he can remain with us far more personally in the Spirit. In the Spiritual Reflection for this week, Pope Francis states it this way: “The Feast of the Ascension tells us that although Jesus ascended to Heaven to dwell gloriously at the right hand of the Father, he is still and always among us: this is the source of our strength, our perseverance, and our joy, from the very presence of Jesus among us with the strength of the Holy Spirit.”
The truth that we will see revealed repeatedly in the readings for this week is that God never leaves us. He is never far from us. Jesus himself assures us in today’s Gospel: “I am with you always, until the end of the age.” This is a fundamental proclamation which we must make as disciples of the Lord – that he is always with us, always near, to guide, to heal, to comfort and to save.
We are not always aware of the Lord’s presence with us in the Spirit, but that is due to our human weakness, our spiritual blindness, and our lack of faith. Therefore, the prayer of St. Paul in the second reading is one we do well to pray often. Yes, Father, please do fill us with “a Spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of [you].” Please do enlighten the eyes of our hearts, so that we “may know what is the hope that belongs to [your] call, what are the riches of glory in [your] inheritance among the holy ones, and what is the surpassing greatness of [your] power for us who believe”!
We pray for the grace to hold both of these truths firmly in our hearts: that Jesus is the Most High, King over all the earth, resurrected and ascended into Heaven in glory, and at the same time that he is intimately united with us through the power of the Spirit, always looking upon us with personal loving attention, always working to free us, restore us, and bring us into glory with him in Heaven. This is what he has revealed to us, and this is what he sends us forth to proclaim “to the ends of the earth,” until he comes again in glory.
How has the Risen Lord healed, comforted, and guided me through my life? Why do I not always feel the presence of the Lord even though he is always with me? When have I felt the strength and joy of Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit?
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 19, no. 4. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.