Behold, Christ Goes Up With Shouts of Joy!
On this seventh Sunday of Easter we celebrate Christ’s Ascension into heaven. Christ’s Ascension marks the definitive end of his salvific mission as God made man. That is, his humanity. It also marks the climax of his glorification as the great Messiah. So like every good child or messenger, having fulfilled his mission, He has returned to render full account of his work to his father.
As a Church and the Body of Christ, we rejoice because today we celebrate the final victory of Jesus over Satan – over sin and death. This is a sign of hope that, as Christ our head defeated Satan and defiled the force of gravity to ascend to the Father, we too shall one day overcome all the forces of sickness, poverty, humiliation, wars, disasters, starvation, hunger, injustice, oppressions etc. that try to subdue us in this world. This is certain because the same Holy Spirit that raised and ascended Christ is in us (Rom 8, 11). Thus, Ascension reminds us that we are on a journey, that, rather than this world, heaven is our final destination.
The first reading gives us a brief summary of the life of the historical Jesus up to the point of his dramatic ascension into heaven. There are two messages of hope for us here. The first is the promise of the Advocate: “…But you will receive the Holy Spirit…and you shall be my witness…to the ends of the earth.” (Act. 1:8)
This implies that Christ is not leaving us as orphans. Instead, he remains with us through the Holy Spirit “till the end of time” (Matt. 28:20). Therefore, the Ascension of Christ does not mean his absence from us. Rather it means his continuous presence through the Holy Spirit. The second is the promise of his return (the Parousia). So, today we also celebrate hope because Christ has gone to prepare a place for us in his kingdom. And the hope that one day he shall return to take us in order to be with him.
However, it is important to note that while we wait and prepare for Christ to return, we are not supposed to remain idle or gaze endlessly like the apostles did at the scene of the Ascension before they were awaken to consciousness. Instead we are expected to live productive lives. This is why both the second reading and Gospel reminds us of our missionary vocation. So while we wait for the return of Christ, we have to make effort to fulfill this call and vocation by living appropriately. Paul tells us the best way to do this: “Bear with one another charitably, in complete selflessness and in patience. Do all you can to preserve the unity of the spirit by the peace that binds you together.” (Eph. 4:2-3) This is what we are supposed to as Christians. He must not find us idle and, we must have enough souls to present to him when he returns.
Fr Odinaka Nwadike