Engaging the Gospel – Ascension of the Lord

Ascension of the Lord (Year C): Gospel – Luke 24:46-53

“Jesus’ final apparition [to the disciples] ends with the irreversible entry of His humanity into divine glory,” His Ascension into heaven, where He is “exalted at the Father’s right hand” (Catechism paragraphs 659-660).

“Being seated at the Father’s right hand signifies the inauguration of the Messiah’s kingdom” (664) and reveals that “Christ is Lord of the cosmos and of history” (668).

To extend the reign of His kingdom on earth, He instructs His disciples to preach the Gospel to all nations, a command handed down the ages, even to our own day.

In one respect, “the Church is catholic [literally, ‘universal’] because she has been sent out by Christ on a mission to the whole of the human race” (831).

As the Vatican II document Lumen gentium states,

All men are called to belong to the new People of God. This People, therefore, while remaining one and only one, is to be spread throughout the whole world and to all ages in order that the design of God’s will may be fulfilled: He made human nature one in the beginning and has decreed that all His children who were scattered should be finally gathered together as one (quoted in 831).

Question for reflection: In what ways do I express solidarity with fellow Christians around the world?

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?

Engaging the Gospel: Ascension of the Lord

Ascension of the Lord: Gospel – Matthew 28:16-20

Christ ascended into heaven and “is seated at the right hand of the Father,” preceding us into His “glorious kingdom” (Catechism paragraphs 663-666).

But Christ still dwells with us in His Church, which He took care to establish as “the seed and the beginning of the kingdom” on earth (669). Because His kingdom is to embrace all nations, so must the Church be universal, literally “catholic,” a word which derives from the Greek term meaning “universal” (830).

Just as the Father sent Christ as His Emissary, so does Jesus appoint emissaries – in Greek, apostoloi (858). Christ empowered His apostles to continue His mission all over the world, investing them with the authority to teach, sanctify, and guide His flock (857). He “promised to remain with them always,” revealing that “their office also has a permanent aspect” and that this “divine mission…will continue to the end of time” (860).

As a result the apostles designated successors, bishops, to shepherd the Church (861-862). Thus began the unbroken line, from the apostles through the successive Catholic bishops for two millennia, down to our own very day.

The preservation of this precious apostolic heritage makes the Church “catholic” in a more profound sense. The Catholic Church receives from Christ “the fullness of the means of salvation which He has willed: correct and complete confession of faith, full sacramental life, and ordained ministry in apostolic succession” (830).

Question for reflection: In what ways do I try to draw others closer to the Lord?

Ascension of the Lord

Summary of Catechism paragraphs 659-82:

  • During the 40 days after the Resurrection, Jesus spends time with the disciples, eating, drinking, and instructing them about the Kingdom of God.
  • Christ’s final appearance ends with His Ascension into heaven, where He comes full circle: the One who came from the Father returns to Him, exalted in divine glory.
  • But Jesus, as the Word made flesh, now brings His human nature with Him into this transcendent glory; Jesus goes before us, paving the way for our humanity to take the place that He has marked out for us in heaven.
  • Thus the Ascension is not simply an historical event; it is at the same time a sign of our own ultimate destiny, if we follow the Lord.
  • Having entered the heavenly sanctuary, Christ continually intercedes for us; in this way Christ exercises His eternal priesthood.
  • Christ is enthroned at the right hand of the Father, symbolizing the inauguration of His Kingdom, and He reigns as the Lord of the cosmos and all history.
  • The Ascension ushered in the final age of the world: Christ has already conquered, but the totality of His victory is not yet accomplished on earth.
  • Christ’s victory is still unfolding in the course of human time, until He comes again in glory at the close of history.
  • Throughout this time of watching and waiting, Christ’s kingship is present on earth through the mystery of the Church, the seed and beginning of the Kingdom; the Church must undergo trials and persecutions until the Lord returns.
  • The final realization of the Kingdom will not come about incrementally from our efforts, but rather from the action of God, when Christ appears as the Lord and Judge of the living and the dead.

Live Your Faith

As depicted in the great works of religious art, Christ enthroned in majesty is an awe-inspiring, and overwhelming, sight.

Yet this same Christ is enthroned among us, through his Eucharistic presence in the tabernacle and in the adoration chapel.

Do we feel a sense of reverential awe in His presence? Let us be ever mindful, and attentive, that the glorified Christ is here.