Feast of the Ascension
The annual celebration of the Feast of the Ascension is a time for us to reflect on the great events in history which changed dramatically the way in which Christians live their lives, with a hope for a glorious future. We are told in the Gospel, “so then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them, was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God” (Mk. 16).
To understand the importance of the Ascension of Jesus into heaven is to understand the complete picture of Jesus’ gift of redemption and salvation. We have been correctly taught in our youth, the sin of our first parents had a deadly effect on humanity by unleashing evil into the world and sentencing every human being to death. St. Paul reminds us, “Therefore as sin came into world through one man and death through sin, so death spread to all men because all men sinned” (Rm 5:12). Later Paul expounds, “For the wages of sin is death” (Rm 6:23).
Sin and death have always been incompatible with God’s eternal love and separates us from God. Having God’s beloved creatures separated from him was never his will and is as impossible for God to condone evil. God is the only one who has the power over sin and death and therefore has the power to unite humanity with him again. The unification God exercised and accomplished was by the obedience of his Son, Jesus Christ. His birth, his dying and rising and his Ascension to his Father in heaven.
In the plan to save humanity from themselves, God, in the fullness of time sent his Son to be born of the sinless Virgin Mary to assume our human nature through his Incarnation. The beginning of the plan initiated by God and accepted through the obedience of the Blessed Mother. Her obedience to the Word of God is in opposition to the sinful Eve and Adam who were the first to disobey the Word of God.
The second stage of salvation occurred when Jesus died on the cross for our sins. Atonement is achieved by Jesus paying the price with his life which dealt sin a fatal blow. After three days, Jesus was raised by the Father from his grave. The empty tomb on Easter Sunday rectified the another aspect of separation by destroying death forever.
The final step of salvation is what we are celebrating today, Jesus’ glorious Ascension into heaven. The human conundrum is now made right. Heaven is now again open to human beings by the salvation offered through the New Adam now sitting at the right hand of the Father.
Although much of the talk so far has been about historical events, the reason for the Ascension of Jesus into heaven is the way by which salvation and redemption can be made present.
Jesus invites us into his divine life as he did with those who knew him on personally on earth. Jesus wishes to bestow divine life on all of us today, but It would be impossible for him physically to reach and touch every person.
The plan of salvation took this into consideration and gave the power of divine life to continue through his Church. The Church is the means by which salvation and redemption of Jesus is offered to the whole world through the Sacraments. The Sacraments are the real presence of Jesus’ divine life available to those persons who seek a more perfect union with God. For those who receive the Sacraments, they are living in the divine life here and now regardless if they live in Europe, South America or the United States.
The conqueror of sin and death has gone to heaven to be with the Father for all eternity. Even though he is heaven, his real presence is still here, right now. God’s plan has been revealed: salvation and redemption have transcended time and space.