The Ascension


4 May 2008 The Solemnity of the Ascension of Christ
Acts 1, 1-11; Psalm 47; Hebrews 9, 24-28; Matthew 28, 16-20

The ascension of Jesus expresses His real transcendent destiny. In the Old Testament, heaven is the inaccessible private home of God (Isaiah 66,1). And no humans should dare scale its heights. To even attempt to reach the heavens is arrogance to the highest degree. This is what happened in the story of the tower of Babel (Gen 11, 4ff). There are, however, the chosen ones who were taken up to heaven such as Enoch (Gen 5, 24) and Elijah (2 Kings 2,11). The privilege of being taken to heaven is a gift of God. Thus, when Jesus ascended into heaven, it affirms the truth that Jesus — who died on the cross — is not just alive but possesses an entirely new kind of existence.

By extension, our belief in the ascension of Jesus reminds us of our destiny too as human beings. Just as Jesus was taken up into heaven, we too can dream of finally being united with God in our heavenly home (Heb 11, 16). Thus, we are invited to look beyond our earthly life to the final destiny we are intended to have.

This is what hope is all about. Our faith helps us not to be discouraged in the face of failure, or hopeless when we are desperate. Our belief in the ascension enables us not to be defeated in the face of death. We know that failure, desperation and death do not have the final word in our lives.

In addition, faith also helps us give ourselves in heroism and utmost generosity. We know several people who have given their lives for a higher principle or a greater purpose. We know that we are also willing — or are already doing it — to die for someone or a cause we feel deeply for. Because of this destiny, human beings are given more importance. We suffer for our children, because they are worth sacrificing for. Heroes die for the country because they believe that the country is worth dying for.

A final word from the first reading. After the ascension, the community of men and women went to the upper room to pray. Praying individually and communally is an effect of the ascension. Because Jesus is in heaven, He has opened what was a private and inaccessible abode of God. Because He has gone to heaven, he has gained a new kind of existence that made Him more present in His Church. Whenever we pray, our prayers metaphorically go to the open gates of heaven; and it is also heard by Jesus who is also in us. Either way it is great to think that our prayers do not escape into thin air.

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