Engaging the Gospel – Ascension of the Lord

Ascension of the Lord (Year B): Gospel – Mark 16:15-20

Jesus’ Ascension into heaven is rich in meaning on multiple levels. With His enthronement in divine glory, Christ ushers in His kingdom, exercises His eternal priesthood by interceding for us, and opens the path to heaven for us, revealing our own future in eternity (Catechism paragraphs 659-667).

The Ascension into heaven is an “historical and transcendent event” whereby Jesus returns to the Father from whom He came, and is seated at His right hand (660).

As St. John Damascene explains,

By the ‘Father’s right hand,’ we understand the glory and honor of divinity, where He who exists as Son of God before all ages, indeed as God, of one being with the Father, is seated bodily after He became incarnate and His flesh was glorified.

— quoted in 663.

Benedict XVI helps us to understand the deeper meaning of heaven, beyond the idea of a location on the cosmic map:

Heaven is “the contact of the being ‘man’ with the being ‘God,’” or our “place, so to speak, inside God’s own being.”

As a result, we cannot possibly enter into the divine life on our own. Heaven is the ultimate gift that we can only receive, thanks to the “confluence of God and man” brought about by Christ.

For this reason, “heaven is always more than a private, individual destiny,” but is “necessarily connected” with Christ and therefore with our brothers and sisters (Credo for Today, pp. 92-94).

This is why Christ commands us to proclaim the Gospel before He ascends to the Father: we have been given such a great gift that we must share it.

“The ultimate purpose” of this missionary mandate is

none other than to make men share in the communion between the Father and the Son in their Spirit of love…It is from God’s love for all men that the Church in every age receives both the obligation and the vigor of her missionary dynamism.

— Catechism 850-51.

Question for reflection: What opportunities do I have to share my Catholic faith?