Today we celebrate the Ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Perhaps, though, you’ve heard some people claim that Christ didn’t bodily ascend into heaven. Perhaps you’ve heard some claim that what’s important is the theology that Christ is now forever united with the Father, and whether or not He’s risen or ascended is irrelevant. Today, however, I tell you, that Christ has indeed resurrected from the dead, and bodily ascended into heaven under his own power.
If you don’t want to believe me, then believe the words of Christ, believe the witness of the Gospels, believe the witness of the Apostles, and all of the disciples. Each of these accounts either foretell the ascension or recount it as a past event.
St. Paul tells us that, “if Christ did not rise from the dead, then our faith is in vain.” To this we might add, “if Christ did not also ascend into heaven, then our faith is in vain.”
Once we accept that he has truly ascended into heaven, some general questions should enter into our minds. Such as, what does this ascension mean? Or even, why did Christ leave us?
These questions strike at the heart of theology; to put it simply: Christ bodily ascended into heaven in order to enter into His kingdom, to send down the Holy Spirit, to intercede for us with the Father, and to prepare a place for us there. (CE)
Christ made His ascent from the Mount of Olives, where He began His Passion, to show us that the road to heaven must be through suffering. He ascended into heaven by His own power, not like Elias taken up on a chariot; nor like Mary who was assumed into heaven. And as he ascended, scripture tells us that he also took with him all of the holy souls from limbo that had awaited his coming. (Catechism Explained)
Now that we’ve heard the readings and covered the theology, we must look at practical applications; because if all we do is study scripture or theology just for our own edification, it’s rather meaningless. Because when we come into contact with holy scripture, if we don’t amend our lives to conform to the Gospel, to be more like Christ, what good is it?
So then, what do we do about it? What does believing in the Ascension mean for us? What demands does it make on our life?
Well, Christ speaks in both the 1st reading and the Gospel today, and both times he speaks to the disciples, and us too, saying, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses; [proclaiming] repentance and forgiveness of sins to [the ends of the earth].”
My friends, this is the mission, the goal of coming into contact with Holy Scripture today: to be witnesses of Jesus Christ.
Before we even open our mouths to speak and witness to others about Jesus Christ, people are already paying attention to how we conduct ourselves. To that end, our lives need to reflect the Gospel through charity, humility, forgiveness, all the virtues. Christ asks for all of us, not half, He wants that our very life be a witness to Himself. The idea being that when people see us and hear us, that they see and hear Christ.
What matters, then, is not whether we know the right things to say, but whether those whom we come into contact with are drawn out of their ordinary lives into the world of Christ. (von Hildebrand)
St Joh Paul II, when speaking to an audience once said, “Be generous in answering Jesus’ call inviting you to put out into the deep and become His witnesses. Above all, to fulfill this mission [that] the Church is entrusting to you requires that you cultivate a genuine life of prayer nourished by the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Confession.”
My brothers and sisters, in short, to be witnesses of Jesus Christ, we have to become saints, there is no other way. “Today our Lord Jesus Christ ascended into heaven; let our hearts ascend with him.” (St. Augustine)