Ascension of the Lord (May 8, 2016)

Ascension of the Lord (May 8, 2016)

 

The big event in our area here this weekend is, of course, the opening of Cedar Point with its new dive roller coaster, Valravn.  Thinking about all of the Jesus events that we’ve remembered and celebrated these last couple of months, it’s struck me that being one of Jesus’ disciples must have been one heck of an emotional roller coaster ride—from the hope of the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, to despair at the crucifixion, to the joy of the Resurrection, and now saying goodbye again as Jesus ascends into heaven.  But this time things are different.  There’s a blessing from Christ and once again the promise of the Holy Spirit—a promising, though perhaps still somewhat uncertain transition.  All transitions involve change, and this can be difficult, but transitions are necessary in order to keep us moving forward.  In fact, the Ascension of our Lord is quite a turning point, a turning point for us in our relationship with God. 

 

At first, it may seem with the Ascension that Jesus is actually getting farther away from us and our lives here on earth.  But while He might no longer be visible in one way, He certainly has never really departed from us.  Actually, with Christ’s work continuing at the Father’s side, He is actually closer to us – no longer bound by earthly existence.  After his Ascension, Christ remains present with us, and in us, in new and even more incredible ways.  He is present through the workings of the Holy Spirit, present in the Sacraments, and present in the Church, which is now His Mystical Body here on earth, living and working throughout the world throughout the centuries.

 

And this is where we come in.  One blog post I read this week called the Lord’s Ascension “one of the boldest things that Jesus ever did. He left the world and left the church in the hands of the disciples.” [redeemedonline.com/bold]  In both our 1st Reading from Acts and in our Gospel from Luke, Jesus tells His disciples that they will be His witnesses to the all earth, anticipating the mission of the Church.  So a great turning point indeed!  The Church as a whole, and we, as members of Christ’s Body, are to be witnesses and missionaries: witnesses and missionaries of salvation, of mercy, of hope, of charity, of Christian joy, of reconciliation and peace.  Quite a mission!  But we are backed up by the power of the Holy Spirit, and of Christ, risen and ascended and seated at the right hand of the Father.

 

What’s more than that, the Ascension of our Lord brings hope and strength not only in our mission here on earth, but also gives us hope for the life to come.  As it will pray in our Preface today, “he ascended, not to distance himself from our lowly state but that we, his members, might be confident of following where he, our Head and Founder, has gone before.”  We hear in our reading from Hebrews, “we have confidence of entrance into the sanctuary by the new and living way he opened for us through the veil, that is, his flesh…”  This speaks to the new holy city Jerusalem that we’ve heard about and talked about the two weeks.  With Christ’s Ascension, human flesh has been raised up to heaven, where the Lord continues to draw the members of His Body back to the Father, brought to life by the Spirit.  As Christ shared in our humanity, He offers to us a share in His divinity.

 

As the Body of Christ, we can be confident that He is with us, and that we are with Him.  And with the hope we have from the Lord’s Ascension, we need not stand looking up at the sky, but to look out for ways to be Christ for one another, the mission and witness that Christ calls us to through our baptism, our Confirmation, and through the continuous gift of Himself in the Eucharist.  Like a roller coaster, our life might have a lot of ups and downs, twists and turns, and even seem like we’ve ended up back where we started sometimes.  But in God we are “clothed with power from on high” to keep moving forward in our mission.