My brothers and sisters in Christ,1
Today is a day of joy. Because as we just heard — today Jesus Christ is going home to his heavenly Father.
And in God’s Providence, we have the beautiful privilege of being able to share in this moment of joy, his Ascension into heaven.
Jesus has gone to open up heaven’s door for us. This is what the Ascension means. It means that there is no “wall” now between heaven and earth, between God and his creation. Now, nothing again can ever separate us from the love of God.
That’s why it is a beautiful celebration today, and we have joy celebrating the Ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus descended to earth to share in our humanity. And today he ascends into heaven — so that our humanity can share in his divinity.
That’s what is so special. And this is an important truth for us to reflect on.
As we heard in our readings today, Jesus is lifted up to heaven — not as a “spirit.” His whole body is lifted up. The same body that was in the womb of his Blessed Mother Mary. The same body that bears the wounds of his passion and crucifixion — the wounds in his hands and feet, and in his side.
So the Ascension means that there is a place in heaven for each one of us — for you and for me. There is place in heaven now for everyone who wants to go.
This is why we believe in the Resurrection of the body. We will rise body and soul to heaven — because Jesus has gone before us. And where he has gone we can follow.
So, when you think about it, we understand how our lives have a destination, a purpose. The Ascension makes our life on earth a pathway to heaven, which is, as we know, our true home.
The life of Jesus on earth was a pilgrimage of love. He came to show us the face of God and to open our hearts to God’s love and mercy.
And now Jesus is sending us out to continue that pilgrimage of love. His Ascension marks the end of his earthly mission — and the beginning of our mission, the mission of the Church.
We heard his own words in the first reading of today’s Mass. He is speaking to the apostles, but also to each one of us. And he is giving us our mission. He says: “You will be my witnesses.”
And in the Gospel he explains what this mission involves, as he says:
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
It’s an exciting mission! These words are beautiful — we know them well. At the same time, we know that they are challenging — they are challenging words.
On the one hand there is more exciting and beautiful than to be witnesses of the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. And especially knowing that this is what our life is all about.
On the other hand, we know that it is challenging — because this is difficult for us to make it happen in our daily lives.
So today we especially ask for the grace that we can really be witnesses of the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. To keep in mind all the time that Jesus is sending us out into the world to live for God, to serve our brothers and sisters — that’s our Christian mission.
That’s our Christian life — a calling to follow Jesus Christ. St. Paul gives us this beautiful prayer in the second reading today:
May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory,
give you a Spirit of wisdom and revelation
resulting in knowledge of him.
May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened,
that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call.
It’s so important for all of us, my brothers and sisters, to really understand the beauty of our life — as a gift to God — the path that we are to follow — imitating the life of Our Lord Jesus Christ — and the goal where we are going — eternal happiness in heaven.
But, as we know, following Jesus is a choice, it is a decision that we, personally, have to make. There are many other ways we can choose to live. The world has many attractions and distractions. We can spend our time here on this earth doing a lot of different things.
So the question for us today is: are we living the way that God wants us to live? Or is something missing? Are we standing around looking up at the sky — when God is all around us, calling us?
It always caught my attention how the angel said to the Apostles: what are you doing there looking up at the sky?
Jesus has gone to heaven and he wants — he didn’t say that but we all understand that the meaning of that was “go on, and become witnesses of the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ.”
So the call of Jesus is an invitation — to go with God, to live with him. We heard that promise in the Gospel:
And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.
Jesus is calling us to live in the presence of God, to open our hearts to the gifts of the Holy Spirit. And he is calling us to share in his mission of love.
So, to be a Christian, as we know, means more than accepting Jesus Christ. We need to proclaim him. Jesus called us to be his witnesses. That’s a decision, an action that we are called to make.
So, as I said before, let us pray this week, especially that we can understand the meaning of our life and make the decision once again to be missionaries of mercy — missionary disciples.
So, this week, let us try to especially remember that we have this beautiful mission of being missionary disciples — that Jesus is sending us into the world, just like he was sent into the world by his God the Father.
Let us keep our hearts fixed on Jesus, and be good witnesses to the power of his love in our lives. As we rejoice in the Ascension of Our Lord, let us renew our commitment to be another Christ — Christ himself.
And finally, there is a beautiful old tradition in the Catholic Church — a ten-day devotion to the Holy Spirit as a preparation for the Feast of Pentecost this coming Sunday.
So this week, as we try to reflect on our mission, let us also try to be especially open to the action of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Try to listen carefully to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit.
You all remember that beautiful prayer:
Come, Holy Spirit,
Fill the hearts of your faithful
And enkindle in them the fire of your love.
Send forth your spirit
And thou shall be created
And you shall renew the face of the earth.
And may Our Blessed Mother Mary help us to follow her Son on the pathway to heaven, where he has gone before us.
1. Readings (Solemnity of the Ascension of Our Lord, Year A): Acts 1:1-11; Ps. 47:2-3, 6-9; Eph. 1:17-23; Matt. 28:16-20.