The Ascension of the Lord

05-28-2017HomiliesFather Barnabas Duniya

“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself”(Jn 12:32). The lifting up of Jesus on the cross signifies and announces Christ lifting up by his Ascension into heaven and indeed begins it.

Our Lord’s Ascension into heaven helps explain the present condition of his risen body. Christ’s Ascension into heaven signifies his participation, in his humanity, in God’s power and authority. Jesus Christ is Lord: he possesses all power in heaven and on earth. As Lord, Christ is also head of the Church, which is his Body (Rom.14:9). Taken up to heaven and glorified after he had thus fully accomplished his mission, Christ dwells on earth in his Church (Eph 1:20-22).

Christ's Resurrection and Ascension are compelling signs of his victory over sin and death. The Church, which is his body: in Paul's theology, the Church is the Mystical Body of Christ in which individual members of the faithful form complementary parts of the human body (Eph 1:18).

The Ascension of the Saviour is an integral part of our faith. As Paul says, through the Ascension of the Lord our hearts are enlightened; we come to share in the riches of his glory and inherit the greatness of his power for us who believe.

The Ascension of the Lord enables us, as St. Augustine says, to be with Jesus, because where the head is the body must also be. The Ascension of the Lord is not a final act in the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ but it is about a new way of being here and now. Jesus has completed his Father's mission here on earth and he now rules with all authority and intercedes with all sympathy as our mediator and high priest in the presence of the Father.

Like the Apostles in today's gospel, it is easy to doubt the reality of Christ. But like them, we draw near and worship him. Precisely because of his Ascension into heaven, he is near to us. He says: "Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age" (Mt 28:20). The Ascension of Jesus does not mean the absence of Jesus: it means his presence, shown often in weakness and in what is small and despised, but backed by the infinite power and glory of God.

Ascension Sunday is a kind of wake-up call. St. Paul says we should lift our eyes from the worries and anxieties of this life to see Jesus seated at the right hand of the Father. Detachment is one of the chief truths to which the Lord's Ascension points our attention: to detaching ourselves from everything except God. First, we have to detach ourselves from all things which we put in place of God, and secondly, we have to "cling" to God alone.

Being detached from all created things does not necessarily mean that we remove them from our lives. Rather, being detached from created things means that we recognize that the happiness and meaning that any created thing can bring into our life is less than we might want to imagine. We can also detach ourselves from created things through simple penance, or what the Church sometimes calls mortification.

Grace is something that we can only cling to "in spirit". This means that only by our souls can we cling to the Holy Spirit. If we live according to the flesh, according to material pleasure, then only what we can see and taste, touch and purchase can bring us joy.