The Ascension of Christ and its Christian Relevance
The Ascension of Christ
Solemnity of the Ascension of Christ, Year C
A young man was once asked these questions: At the end of school what do you want to do? I want to do my Senior Certificate. After your Senior Certificate what do you want to do? - I want to go to college. After college what do you want to do? - I want to get a job. Then what do you want to do? - I want to make big money. What do you want to do after making money? - I want to build a big house. After that what do you intend to do? - I want to get married. What will you do after getting married? - I will have a family. What will you do after having a family? - I will retire. What do you want to do after you retire? - I want to take a rest. What will you do after taking a rest? - I don’t know.
Will you die? - Oh yes, I will die too. What will happen after death? I am not sure!
If you are ask the same question, what would your answer be? Looking at the things, events and concerns that preoccupy us every now and then, do they have something to do with our ultimate end? Or to put it deeply in relation to our Solemnity today, "How relevant is the ascension of Christ to our Christian life?"
Our dear Pope Francis, in one of his interviews, gave us certain points that he wishes every Catholic to understand about the Ascension. I would like to share them to you this Sunday:
1. The Ascension of Jesus passes by way of the CROSS. Pope Francis said these very profound words, “While he was “going up” to the Holy City, where his own “exodus” from this life was to occur, Jesus already saw the destination, heaven, but he knew well that the way which would lead him to the glory of the Father passed through the Cross, through obedience to the divine design of love for mankind.” In that sense, we find meaning from our own personal “crosses” for we do not only share in the very sufferings of Christ, but in a noble way, we ready ourselves towards a glorious path to Heaven.
Recently, in the Philippines, CBCP proudly announced Vatican’s declaration of a new “Servant of God” (called to someone who has been found fit to move his/her canonization process because of his/her exemplary life). The candidate is a little boy in the name of Darwin Ramos. A Philippine newspaper, Manila Bulletin wrote it this way,
Ramos spent his early years in the slums of Pasay City. In order to help his family, he became a scavenger in the streets, with his younger sister. Unfortunately, the initial symptoms of what will later be diagnosed as Duchenne muscular dystrophy appeared. Progressively, he could no longer stand and his muscles weakened. In 2006, after getting acquainted with a group of street educators from Tulan ng Kabataan (TnK), Ramos entered in one of its centers helping street children. Discovering the Catholic faith, he received the sacrament of baptism in the same year and the first communion and the sacrament of confirmation in 2007.
Along the years, Ramos’ physical condition deteriorated. But despite it, he uplifted the staff and other children at the center by the way he lived with his illness. It was said that Ramos developed a deep personal relationship with Christ, and not a day passed that the boy did not take time out to entrust himself to Jesus. In 2012, Ramos’ condition worsened suddenly: he felt pain while breathing and was then brought to a hospital. Even in these moments of suffering, he continued to maintain a friendly attitude, thanking everyone for helping him. Ramos died at the Philippine Children’s Medical Center in Quezon City on Sept. 23, 2012, at the age of 17.
Darwin is a true testimony to what Pope Francis was saying about Jesus’ ascension. He knew his destination and despite being a street child, afflicted with myopathy, he is filled with joy out of his relationship with God.
How do we carry our "crosses" in life? Do we carry them with joy and happiness in our life? Through Jesus' ascension, we are reminded that part of Christian life is to carry our own personal "crosses". Like Christ, we will pass by the cross before we could get to our goal in Heaven with the Father.
2. The Ascension of Jesus directs us to Him as our ADVOCATE. Pope Francis inspires us with these words, “During the Ascension Jesus made the priestly gesture of blessing, and the disciples certainly expressed their faith with prostration, they knelt with bowed heads.” He moves on by quoting the Scripture, “Jesus is the one eternal High Priest who with his Passion passed through death and the tomb and ascended into heaven. He is with God the Father where he intercedes forever in our favour.” (cf. Heb 9:24)
I said the Memorial Mass yesterday at the Holy Cross cemetery, their regular First Saturday Memorial Mass, and I reminded the people about their prayers that go ultimately to the Father "through Christ." He answers all our prayers, but with Jesus, He collects them altogether and present them to God our Father. And so, we have to ask for everything that we have and we are have always something to do with our ultimate end.
3. The Ascension tells us that He is very ALIVE in our midst in a NEW WAY. Pope Francis on this regard emphasized these words from St. Luke, “Having seen Jesus ascending into heaven, the Apostles returned to Jerusalem “with great joy.” As opposed to sadness, grief, or mourning, in response to Christ’s departure, the apostles were overjoyed! Why is that? Because, Christ leaves them with an assurance that He will continue to live with them, to guide and intercede for them.
The bottom line of Jesus’ Ascension into heaven is the assurance of the fulfillment of hope that we too will share in the life thereafter. Without this hope, our life is meaningless. It is like striking something without a target … without a goal. May Christ ascension continue to be at work in our lives and live it up with joy in our hearts. In the midst of sufferings, may we find glory. In the midst of difficulties, may we find an advocate ready to help us. In the midst of every endeavor, may we find joy in the presence of God, who despite His Ascension, continues to live among us and within us.
God bless us all!