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ARTICLE: Ascension of the Lord Year: B

May 10, 2018


Ascension of the Lord

Year: B

Acts 1.1-11; Ps 47; Eph 4.1-13; Mk 16.15-20

Marathon of Hope

Terry Scott born in Winnipeg (Canada) in 1958 and was raised in Port Coquitlam. A top athlete as a youth, at 18 he was diagnosed with bone cancer in his right leg and it was amputated above the knee. In hospital moved by the suffering of other patients Fox wrote the Canadian Cancer Society, asking for support to a run across Canada to raise money for cancer research. It would be called the Marathon of Hope. In April 1980 he launched his run in St. John’s N.L., by dipping his artificial leg in the ocean. After running for 143 days, covering more than 5000 kilometres, Fox stopped his trek in Thunder Bay Ontario, because the cancer had spread to his lungs. In 1981, his dream of raising $ 1 from every Canadian was realized when the Marathon of Hope raised $ 24 million. Shortly after, he died on June 28th at the age of 22.

In 1999, Fox was voted Canada’s greatest hero in a national survey. To date, more than $ 550 million has been raised for cancer research in Fox’s name.

The name Terry Fox reminds many, of his determination to achieve something to save before he knew that he is going to be the victim of cancer.

Final Instructions

After giving his final instructions to his apostles, the risen Christ is taken from their sight – "taken up", "hidden by a cloud", "into heaven", "exalted" and "seated at God´s right hand". The very multiplicity of the ways the sacred authors strive to describe the indescribable warns us that the way the mystery is too readily visualized – a rocket - like Jesus lifting off from a launching pad in the Holy Land, as the curtains come down on his earthly sojourn – is inadequate and fails to do justice to its rich content. The second reading already begins to spell out the early understanding of the Church, that will develop over time under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, of an event that is at once "historical and transcendent" (CCC 659).

Christ is with Us Always

Christ remains with us. Paradoxically, when Jesus takes his place beside the Father, his presence among us is perpetuated and confirmed. For by being glorified, Jesus´ humanity is no longer subject to any created power (it is "high above every principality, power…") – including space and time. During the days of his earthly existence, he remained confined to a small corner of the earth, a brief span of thirty some years. But now, "he fills the universe in all its parts", so that Christians of all times and all places can enter into living contact with him.

Human Experience

At the moment of his Resurrection Christ’s body was glorified, and moved beyond human experience. But for the forty days God allowed the appearance of ordinary humanity to veil his glory, so that he can eat and drink familiarly with his disciples What for? To leave the disciples in no doubt that Christ is "truly risen"; that he is alive; that he is "always with them". Even now that he has been glorified. Even more than before.

Faith must Mature

Throughout those forty days, Jesus, now present now absent, was training his apostles to discover his presence even when their corporal senses would no longer help them do so, but only their faith. In fact, even when they "saw" him they had difficulty being sure it was he; they always had to "believe" as well. The "seeing" ceases with his ascension; now they must depend on faith alone. With his training, they became models and teachers for all those who would be "blessed" because they "would believe without seeing" (John 20:29). A necessity for us, for the Ascension is the irreversible entry of Jesus´ humanity into divine glory, symbolized by the cloud –which hides him from our sight. From now on his glory veils his humanity. And therefore the Christian must live in faith.

Heaven is a State of Life

Christ is in heaven. Heaven, of course, is also a fundamental part of the message of the Ascension. That he has gone before us as our head is the foundation of the "great hope to which God has called us". But where is heaven? Pope John Paul II once said that heaven is not, as many people imagine, "a place in the clouds". Certain representatives of the secular media, predictably, got in a tizzy, and would have had us believe that heaven had been abolished. Fortunately for all of us, it’s still there. Of course, it´s not a "place" peopled by a benign, bearded Grandfather on a throne in the clouds, surrounded by plump babies with wings and larger ones in their nighties blowing trumpets: an image that is not only difficult to place in the cosmos but also singularly unattractive to most of us. 


Heaven is an Unending Experience

Heaven is much more than a "place". It’s a state of total happiness that transcends anything we are familiar with. The Holy Father described heaven as "the fullness of communion with God which awaits all those who have welcomed him into their lives and who have sincerely opened themselves to him. Divine revelation teaches us that heaven is neither an abstraction nor a physical place in the clouds, but a living and personal relationship of union with the Holy Trinity. Heaven is our definitive meeting with the Father which takes place in the Risen Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit". If we were to say that heaven is the most dizzying love affair with the most marvelous Person we will ever know, in its most exhilarating expression and with the certainty that it will go on forever, or to say, with the Catechism, that it is "definitive, supreme happiness," we would still come up very short. Because "no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him" (1Cor 2.9). 

Proclaim the Kingdom

With Jesus departure, the mission of the Church begins. The apostles are not to stand around looking up into the heavens; before his return in glory at the end of time, but "go into the whole world and proclaim the good news to all". Essential: because the Church is Christ´s body through which alone he is present throughout the universe (Second Reading). In this work they, and we, were not left alone: "the Lord continued to work with them throughout…". And a new "power" is given to us.

Faith is What Keeps Us Alive

The mystery of the Ascension is a celebration of the maturity of Christians in the faith. A faith that can believe "without seeing", or feeling, or touching… - such a Christian acts constantly in the firm conviction that Jesus is not "absent" but in fact is always with us (Matthew 28.20). And a faith that seeks the Lord where he is to be found: in and through his Church, the guardian of his word, celebrant of his sacraments, home of his Spirit, stadium of his commandment of love.

Jesus is Heaven

Heaven is wherever Jesus is. If Jesus is on earth, heaven is to be found on earth too, even if veiled, without a doubt, and so far from its full realization to be difficult to compare. But the first intimations of the fullness of joy that heaven offers is already on offer here, to those who do seek him out, and remain in him by being where he is: wherever his Father’s will is done.

Practical Conclusion

The paradox is this: if you want to live, you must die. Dying you live. What does this mean? Simply this; as long as there is a lack of the inner discipline that brings calmness of mind, no matter what external facilities or conditions you have, they will never give you the feeling of joy and happiness that you seek. On the other hand, if you possess this inner quality, a calmness of mind, a degree of stability within, then even if you lack various external facilities that you would normally consider necessary for happiness, it is still possible to live a happy and joyful life. The seed has life within and that life must be healthy. If not, external factors cannot make it live. Death is to the external world, and life then springs from within. Hence, never do to anyone what you would not want done to you.

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD