God mounts his throne with shouts of joy; a blare of trumpets for our God!
Today, Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, the liturgy continues to keep our gaze fixed on the same upward movement that had begun since the start of the Easter season, with the celebration of the resurrection of our Lord. With the Lord returning to his exalted place at the right hand of the Father, our upward gaze literally reaches new heights. The liturgical texts and reading most certainly could aid us in coming up with so many useful considerations for our Christian life, but I would like to summarize the significance of this great feast in three concepts: glory, mission and power.
God mounts his throne with shouts of joy; a blare of trumpets for our God! When the Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us, the silent beating of the Virgin Mother’s heart was the sole accompaniment of God’s coming; now, as Jesus Christ ascends into heaven, he does so with glory, adorned with the wounds of the Passion, which would never be erased, as they are proof of the fact that from now on Heaven is attainable for man, aided with the grace of God. But this glory is not only that of the Son of God, but we also find ourselves included in this explosion of glory. For as we, like the disciples, fix our gaze upon the figure of the Christ until the clouds hide him from our view, we realize that the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity doesn’t enter heaven in the same way as he left it: the humanity that he shares with us also gets to enter into the glory of the God. This fact presents to us what the Opening Prayer of the Mass fittingly expresses: the Ascension of Jesus is our glory and our hope. We are identified with Christ because he bears our humanity: God chose to become one of us. In his sermon on the Ascension of the Lord, St. Augustine says that the glory of Christ is ours too, because what occurs to the head also affects the body, and we are the Body of Christ. It’s much like the phenomenon of Jessica Sanchez in American Idol nowadays; we feel identified with her accomplishment because of that which we mutually possess: being Filipino.
At the same time the ascension is our hope, for if our humanity that Christ shares with us had entered into heavenly glory, we too will enter it. In the event of the Ascension, that which has been promised in the Resurrection becomes evident: our mortal humanity has been granted the hope of one day being transformed in sharing the immortal life of Christ himself, and enter into full communion with the Father, for whom the human heart was made, and which is restless until it rests in Him, to quote St. Augustine. One day we too will enter into this communion, not merely our souls, but as we are, embodied spirits.
Mission is another consideration that we have to make in this feast. Christ was sent by the Father to fulfill his plan of bringing man closer to him; now the Son returns to the Father gloriously triumphant. The mission of the Son does not end, however; as with the Father, so now the Son sends his disciples forth: as the Father has sent me, so am I sending you (Jn 20:21). Among the first words spoken by the Risen Christ were those commissioning his Apostles to do the same as he did. In the Gospel today these were the last words spoken by Christ before he ascended into the right hand of his Father: Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature (Mk 16:15). The Church throughout the centuries has been faithful to this command since its humble beginnings, and we are to take part in this great enterprise. Each of us has received that mission.
To preach the Gospel is have power. Power is the third concept that is contained in the message of the feast. That which should be proclaimed is none other than the Good News of salvation, as mentioned by in the reading: whoever believes and is baptized will be saved (Mk 16:16). These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages. They will pick up serpents with their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them. they will lay hands on the sick and they will recover (Mk 16:19). The Gospel that has the power to transform the world and society, battle the evil in it, neutralize its poison, allow for it to be a space of unity where there are all languages are understood because they speak of charity, and heal this present society that we have that, among other things, is evidently sick.
We have to realize once more that the message of the Gospel is a positive one. We live in a society that sees the Gospel of Christ as a gospel of prohibitions, one that inhibits and represses. No, the Gospel of Christ is the only way that leads to true freedom. We have it upon ourselves to show this truth in our lives. It is the Gospel that allows us to say “yes” to life, to secure a place where love can truly grow and where human life is really nurtured and protected, where man’s rights are truly discovered, respected and even loved. This cannot be possible in a society where the Gospel is not present. And where can the Gospel be found? Not in leather-bound books does the Gospel of Christ reside, but in hearts of flesh that are always open to the caress of the Spirit of God.
This final point should allow us to resolve once again to carry this Gospel in our hearts, to promote it in our lives, asking ourselves in what way could I share the Good News as Christ has commanded me to, according to the particular circumstance that I live in. It is Christ who enlightens and teaches, but it is equally true that He counts on us to make it more attractive in the world that we live in. Basically, the apostolate of the Christian with regards to the Gospel is this: allow its beauty to shine so that others may come to know and love it, and in loving it, be transformed by it.
May Mary, assumed body and soul into heavenly glory by her Son, procure for us the grace to do this in our life. AMEN, ALLELUIA!
FIRST READING: Acts 1:1-11
SECOND READING: Eph 1:17-23
GOSPEL: Mk 16: 15-20