Last week, I wrote to you about a forgotten fast in the Church: Rogation Sunday. This week I would point you towards a forgotten feast: Ascension Sunday.
Next Sunday, we will celebrate the feast of the Ascension. Technically, the feast of the Ascension occurs on Thursday. We are told in Acts 1:3 that Jesus “presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.” Forty days after Jesus rose from the dead, Jesus ascended back into heaven. Just as the Israelites were led in the wilderness by the presence of God who had liberated them from captivity, Jesus is present and leading the new Israel (the Church) for forty days. Jesus’s ascension is one of the more overlooked events in Jesus’s life, despite being declared in the Nicene Creed and our Eucharistic liturgy each week. In fact, it is one of five primary movements in Jesus’s life: Incarnation (birth), Passion & Crucifixion, Resurrection, Ascension, Return. Why is the Ascension of Jesus significant for us today?
First, it is a clear sign that Jesus is the Lord of all creation. As we say in the Nicene Creed, “[Jesus] ascended into heaven, where he is seated at the right hand of the Father.” Jesus is seated on a throne reigning and ruling in victory over the world, the flesh, & the devil. He went through the worst that hell could throw at him and rose victorious from the grave, and now is seated back in the place of authority where he started.
Second, the Ascension of Jesus shows us that the way back to heaven has been opened to humanity. Jesus, a human, is now in heaven. This means that we, as humans, can go to heaven. As Ephesians 4:8 says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives.” Jesus liberated the dead from Death and delivered them into his heavenly kingdom. It is because of Jesus’s Ascension that we can know that our loved ones who have died in the faith are now in heaven.
Third, the Ascension of Jesus causes the Holy Spirit to come and fill the Church (us!). Jesus says in John 16:7, “It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” Jesus ascends into heaven in order to send us the Holy Spirit.
Join us next Sunday as we celebrate the feast of the Ascension!