Christ's Ascension into Heaven
In a little under two weeks the Archdiocese of Cincinnati will celebrate the ordination of seven men to the priesthood. It is a day of great joy for the men being ordained, their families, and the whole archdiocese. We are so joyful because we are thankful that God continues to give us men who will carry on Jesus’ mission to make disciples of all nations and care for all the souls of His faithful on earth.
In our second reading from the Letter to the Hebrews it is stated “But now once for all Jesus has appeared at the end of the ages to take away sin by his sacrifice.” That same sacrifice that the author of Hebrews is the same sacrifice we take part in each week at Mass. It is also same sacrifice each and every priest gets to participate in because of his being so closely united with our Lord in the sacrament of Holy Orders. So when you see a priest be reminded that we are special sharers in the priesthood of Christ.
Besides offering His sacrifice on the Cross. Jesus performs another priestly action in today’s gospel. St. Luke tells us: “Then he led them out as far as Bethany, raised his hands, and blessed them. As he blessed them he parted from them and was taken up to heaven.” Jesus blesses the disciples before He is taken into heaven.
This does not mean that the disciples are the last people to get blessings from our Lord. Today again through the ministry of the priest Christ still blesses His people...blesses us. The Church over the ages has provided blessings for everything from houses to beer as well as a blessing for all the mothers today right after the homily.
This is because the message of Ascension is not that Jesus has left us. Eventually giving the apostles and each of us the gift of the Holy Spirit to hold down the fort until Jesus comes again in glory. The Ascension, when Jesus is taken body and soul into heaven. Jesus’ earthly body being taken into heaven shows us how closely God wishes the connection between heaven and earth to be. Something we experience at each Mass in both the Liturgy of the Word which is like being present at the stories that are taking place in the Bible and most fully heaven comes to earth when Jesus returns Body and Blood in the Eucharist.
Moreover, Jesus Ascension into heaven means that from heaven He sends the Holy Spirit to carry out Christ’s mission on earth. The Holy Spirit carries out this mission by filling the hearts of Jesus followers from the Apostles in our first reading today down through history to our day. When we accept the gift of the Holy Spirit in our hearts we do not get the warm fuzzies but instead we get the peace of Christ that moves us to act. And not simply to act but to act more like Jesus Himself. We have the same power to proclaim words that will cut people to the heart and bring about conversions and show them God’s love because of our baptism and confirmation.
The Ascension does not mean that Christ left us but that he is now closer to each of us than He was on earth. Jesus Christ now dwells in our hearts. Perhaps a very real question we could ask ourselves today as we receive our Lord in the Eucharist; Because of baptism and confirmation for many Christ dwells in our hearts. But is Christ the King of our hearts?
Christ’s Ascension reminds us that the Kingdom of God is not of this world and that Christ now reigns as king in His heavenly kingdom. Wanting to spread the peace and joy of that kingdom to the whole world. The Holy Spirit unites us as soldiers of God to conquer not by power and force but with mercy and love. Christ becomes the king of our earthly realm by becoming the king of each individual human heart.
That is what happens when we accept the gift of the Holy Spirit in its fullness. We allow Christ to become the main priority in our lives. There are many ways in which we may fail to make Christ King of our lives. We may be so absorbed in our many projects and responsibilities at work, home, and the many forms of volunteer work that we do not take time to just enjoy the company of our family friends or the time to sit in the presence of God to experience the love He has for us. Especially the love shown to us in the Eucharist which is accessible for prayer in the church from 6am-9pm everyday. Make quality time with family and our Lord in prayer a priority.
As we approach the feast of Pentecost next week pray for the gift of the Holy Spirit shower down upon those to be ordained priest in a couple of weeks, the entire Our Lady of Victory parish, and the whole world. That we understand that Christ has not left us orphaned but given us not just our earthly mothers but also the Church as a mother. A mother that makes Jesus ever accessible to His people in the tabernacle and at Mass. What people has a God so close to them as our Lord Jesus Christ is to us?