Wednesday, 9 May 2018


“God has ascended with a shout, the Lord, with the sound of a    trumpet.       Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises.  For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a skilful psalm…God reigns over the nations, God sits on His holy throne,”
(Ps. 47. 5-6).
Today’s feast marks the conclusion of Christ’s  visible presence among us, the climax of his work of salvation.   It means much more than Christ disappearing into the clouds 40 days after his resurrection.         That is but a symbol of his ascent to glory with His heavenly Father.  His ascension is not so much a question of physically rising in space but the enhancement of the quality of his life.  That is the real meaning of the Ascension.  
Both St. John’s Gospel and St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, ch. 2, present the whole of Christ life and work of salvation in terms of a circular movement.
The Son of God became man precisely to raise us from the depths of sin and lift us to heights beyond our wildest dreams. To make this possible He first came down to our level.  He put aside his divine power and glory and became a  human being, as weak and  vulnerable as the rest of us.        Paul tells us Jesus went so far in his descent as to become a slave, obedient to the death of the cross.
He reversed our rebellious pride by become the obedient servant of the Lord.  He plumbed the very depths when he allowed himself to be unjustly executed as a criminal. The God of glory was despised and rejected.        
But Jesus was not defeated by the apparent degradation of the cross.   By dying on the cross his love defeated the malice of sin.       The crucified Christ was the triumphant conqueror of sin and death.      On the cross he was lifted up in glory, not humiliated.   This was the first act in the single drama of salvation, and of Christ’s ascent to glory with his heavenly Father.   Next, after his death and burial, Jesus rose to a new and glorious life, while remaining the same person.   He was no longer weak and vulnerable.   Through the resurrection Jesus, the God-man, has ascended to a state of glory, which transcends our natural human condition.
Far from being a slave, He is now triumphant Lord of heaven and earth.  Now Jesus, our saviour, has ascended to glory one of us, a fellow human being, is seated in majesty at the right of His heavenly Father, as Lord of heaven and earth. What is so staggering is that one of us, the Son of God made man, should be a member of the Blessed Trinity, fully enjoying its life and happiness.  That is the climax of His circular journey of descent and ascent.
But the feast of the Ascension does not just celebrate Jesus’ triumphant return to glory with His heavenly Father.       We believe that the glorified Christ has gone ahead to  prepare a place for us,  and that we will share in the glory of His ascension, if we follow Him.          Jesus promised that when He was lifted up, exalted, on the cross He would draw us up with Him, to Him. When we’ve fallen into sin His mercy heals us and lifts us up back onto our feet.  He raises us beyond our human limitations to share the very life and happiness of the Blessed Trinity.  When Jesus returns in glory He will raise us to share, bodily as complete human beings, in His ascent to His heavenly Father.   This ascent has already been achieved in Christ Himself, and has begun in us, when, at baptism, we started to share God’s own life.          In the meantime, Paul reminds us that we have been raised with Christ, and should to set our sights on the things that are above, where Christ is, not on things that are on earth.  (cf. Col. 3. 1-4).
It’s no wonder the disciples were not saddened by Christ’s ascension, even though they could no longer see Him.           They knew he would remain with them in a different way through love.    They believed He would return to gather his followers to share in His heavenly glory.       The feast of the Ascension not only honours Christ, but gives us hope. Today we have good reason to rejoice!

There's an upward moement in the composition of this picture -
the hands suggest the Father drawing up, glorifying, His crucified Son,
the Son's raised hands suggest His raising us up  to share His glory
Our raise hands suggest our "yes" to Christ.
Isidore O.P.

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