Acts 1:1-11; Ps 47:2-3,6-9; Eph 1:17-23; Mt 28:16-20
It’s kind of neat how you and I began our Gospel reading today, as we always do with the greeting, “The Lord be with you.” And you responded, “And also with you.” And Jesus responded to all of us through the Gospel saying, “And behold, I AM with you always, until the end of the age.” (Mt 28:20) And our final reply back to Jesus was, “Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ.” You see, it truly was a conversation between Jesus and us!
Now, unless we’re in the habit of talking to ourselves, we might say that Jesus was actually here, speaking with us through the Gospel words and the other readings. Well I, for one, don’t think we’re ALL crazy, but wow, what a reason to want to come to Mass! A conversation with Jesus! Now we can never again make that complaint, that Jesus doesn’t answer us in prayer.
People often ask, “If Jesus had the power to rise from death, and He really loved us as much as He said he did, then why did He leave us again? Why this Ascension?” That’s a really good question, and the answer is actually in the question itself. Jesus ascended to heaven because he loves us so much. But He didn’t really leave us, as we discovered from our conversation with Him today.
You see, after three years of spoon-feeding His disciples with the basics of: how to love one another, how to forgive, how to obey, and how to communicate, they were still asking, “When will the kingdom of Israel be restored?” (Acts 1:6) They were still doubting. They had all the ‘know-how,’ but they were stuck in the ‘daddy, do it for me’ mode.
Now was the time for them to take those ‘first steps,’ like a child letting go of the coffee table. Now was time for them to ride, without the training wheels, to drive, without mom or dad in the car, to leave home and live on their own. You see, Jesus and they had to let go of one another in order for them to grow, just as parents and children do. This is one reason Jesus had to Ascend, because He loved them enough to want them to grow on their own, though He would never be less than a breath away.
Another reason for the Ascension, in Jesus’ own words, was “so that He could prepare a place for us.” (Jn 14:2-3) “Jesus passed beyond our sight, not to abandon us, but to be our Hope.” (Sac. P. 26) You see, by the resurrected, human Jesus ascending to heaven, He raised our human frailty to glory! We have a place in heaven because Jesus, as one of us, is there. And that changes our whole outlook on life. It’s not hopeless. It’s not over at death, it’s just beginning! And we’re not worried about the “end of the world,” because we’ve had our whole worldly lifetime to prepare, whether that was just a few years or a hundred, we’re ready.
The angels (men dressed in white) at Jesus’ Ascension said, “Why are you standing there looking at the sky?” You see, Jesus clearly told us what to do, “Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations.” By our witness to Jesus living in our lives, and with the strength of the Holy Spirit we’ve received in our baptisms, we are the Peace, we are the Love, and we are the Kingdom here on earth that leads everyone to His Kingdom for Eternity. This is our calling, our whole purpose in life.
St. Paul could not have expressed this more eloquently in saying, “May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones, and what is the surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe…”