The Ascension of Christ and its Christian Relevance
The Ascension of Christ
Solemnity of the Ascension of Christ, Year B
A ridiculous story with religious significance has been making the rounds lately. It is about a pilot and three passengers a boy scout, a priest, and an atomic scientist in a plane that develops engine trouble in mid-flight. The pilot rushes back to the passenger compartment and exclaims, "The plane is going down! We only have three parachutes, and there are four of us! I have a family waiting for me at home. I must survive!" With that, he grabs one of the parachutes and jumps out of the plane. The atomic scientist jumps to his feet at this point and declares, "I am the smartest man in the world. It would be a great tragedy if my life were snuffed out!" With that, he also grabs a parachute and exits the plane. With an alarmed look on his face, the priest says to the Boy Scout, "My son, I have no family. I am ready to meet my Maker. You are still young with much ahead of you. You take the last parachute.” At this point, the Boy Scout interrupts the priest, "Hold on, Father. Don't say any more. We're all right. The world's smartest man just jumped out of the plane wearing my backpack!"
There are those of us, who seems to be one like the scientist in the story, the "smartest" in the world, it would be difficult for them to understand the mystery of the ascension. But, I think contrary to asking whether Jesus indeed went up to heaven out of His own power or not, we should rather ask the question, "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.
A husband once came home from Church. Upon entering the house, he saw his wife cooking. Upon seeing her, he immediately carried her joyfully from one corner of the house to the other. Surprised by this gesture, the wife asked her husband, "Dear, what is going on? You have not done this to me in a long while and why such joy in your face? The husband replied, "Well, as you can see, the Father from Church said in his homily that we have to 'carry' with us our crosses with happiness and joy!"
Joking aside, who or what is/are your "crosses" in life? Do you carry them with joy and happiness in your life? Through Jesus' ascension, we are reminded that part of Christian life is to carry our own personal "crosses". Like Christ, we will pass through 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) Speaking of advocate, hear this other story:
A priest, Walter Ciszek by name, was in Russia for 23 years, five of which were spent in the dreaded Lubyanka prison in Moscow and ten of which were spent in the harsh Siberian slave labour camp. He was finally released from Russia in 1963, in exchange for two Soviet spies held in USA. He died in 1984 at the age of 84. After release he wrote a book “He Leadeth Me." In this book he tries to answer the question: ‘How did you manage to survive in Russia?’ he says: “I was able to endure the inhuman conditions in which I found myself because I experienced somehow the presence of God. I never lost my faith that God was with me, even in the worst of circumstances.”
What was true of Fr. Walter Ciszek is true of each of us. Jesus is with us; God is with us in the power of his Holy Spirit. (Vima Dasan in His Word Lives; quoted in Net for Life)
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!