Ascension of the Lord
The Ascension refers to the mystery of Christ (Passion, Death and Resurrection), and not merely to an episode in his life. This is why it is presented from four different, but complementary views in the Acts of he Apostles and Gospels. This exaltation of Christ “far above the heavens” is the mystery celebrated today by the liturgy.
The Ascension is the end of Luke’s Gospel. That it is recounted in the Acts shows that this is the continuation of the Gospel. All the four Gospels speak in their own way of the departure of the risen one from the company of his disciples, whom he will nevertheless never abandon.
Year A: Christ who has received from his Father all power remains with his followers, even to the end of the world (Mt 28:16-20);
Year B: Christ is with his messengers, working with them and confirming the Word by the signs that accompany it (Mk 16:15-20);
Year C: After having promised his disciples “power from on high” to accomplish their mission, Christ left them, blessing them as he went (Lk 24:46-53). The time of Jesus’ visible presence has come to an end. A new era of salvation history -the last- begins without fanfare.
At the Ascension, none of the apostles said a word, but they could not tear their gaze from the heavens, where Jesus had disappeared. What were they thinking?
The angels send them back to their native Galilee, where Jesus had begun his ministry. “Men of Galilee”: this appellation reminds them that they are still of this earth and must not think themselves to have reached heaven already. “He will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.” In the meantime, and with a view to that day, the disciples must strive to proclaim the gospel to the “ends of the earth.” The Lord’s Ascension marks the uninterrupted passage between the time of Jesus and that of the Church’s mission.
Two other important teachings flow from what the “two men dressed in white garments” said to the apostles. Contemplation… and a second teaching concerning the liturgy… The celebration lasts only a short while and ends with the sending forth of the assembly… Go back to Galilee where your mission awaits you. Christ is with his messengers, working with them and confirming the Word by the signs that accompany it (Mk 16:15-20).
St. Augustine exhort us: “Today our Lord Jesus Christ ascended into heaven; let our hearts ascend with him… While in heaven he is also with us; and we while on earth are with him. He is here with us by his divinity, his power and his love. We cannot be in heaven, as he is on earth, by divinity, but in him, we can be there by love… Although he ascended alone, we also ascend, because we are in him by grace…The body as a unity cannot be separated from the head.”