The Ascension Removes the Training Wheels of Our Faith | National Catholic Registry
COMMENT: The ascension of Christ is meant to help us grow into full stature in Christ as we respond to his trust by making us his missionaries, with the Holy Spirit, to renew the face of the earth. .
The celebration of the Ascension of the Lord is an annual occasion for us not only to focus on heaven, where the Lord Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us (John 14:1-6) and on the joy that “the eye has not seen, nor ear has heard, nor the human heart conceived”, which “God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9; Is 64:4), but also on the implications that Jesus’ return to the Father means for each of his disciples.
Jesus could have remained on earth until the end of time as the Good Shepherd, traveling the globe after each lost sheep, saving them one by one. As he ascended, however, he placed his own mission in our hands, commanding us to “go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).
He removed the training wheels of our discipleship and removed any excuses we might have to shift the responsibility of sharing and spreading the faith to ourselves. “You will be my witnesses, he tells us, in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1: 8).
His confidence and confidence in us, despite all our weaknesses, is amazing. He wanted to incorporate us—entrust us in fact—his mission of redeeming the world.
But he did not leave us orphans (John 14:18).
Saint Luke gives us a beautiful image and detail, that Jesus “led them to Bethany, lifted up his hands and blessed them. As he blessed them, he parted from them and was taken up into heaven” (Luke 24:50-51).
Jesus left in the very act of blessing us. Pope Benedict in his trilogy jesus of nazareth commented on how the risen Jesus in heaven blesses us perpetually.
“Jesus goes in the act of blessing,” he declares. “He goes blessing, and he stays in this gesture of blessing. His hands remain, stretched out over this world… [which] expresses the ongoing relationship of Jesus with his disciples, with the world. … This is why the disciples could go home from Bethany rejoicing. In faith, we know that Jesus holds out his hands in blessing over us. This is the permanent motive of Christian joy.
Jesus continually blesses us with every spiritual blessing in heaven (Ephesians 1:3). He seeks to transform us into his incarnate blessing of the world.
The great manifestation of this blessing is the descent of the Holy Spirit, for whose renewed coming we pray in the annual decenarium from the 40th to the 50th day of Easter. Saint Luke recalls the words of Jesus: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8). It’s the power, the blessing that fell on the Church at Pentecost.
During the Last Supper, Jesus said something amazing: “I tell you the truth: it is for your benefit that I go away, because if I do not go away, the lawyer will not come to you; but if I go away, I will send him to you” (John 16:7). He described the incredible gift of the presence of the Holy Spirit as an even greater blessing than his own. This is what the Church, huddled around the Blessed Virgin Mary, continues to beg after the Ascension.
The Holy Spirit helps us to fulfill, not rob us of, the awesome responsibility Christ has given us. It is the duty to bear witness that Christ is alive, that he is the Way, the Truth, the Resurrection and the Life, that he came to give us life in fullness, so that his joy may be in us and that our joy is to be complete; he came to give us and leave us the peace of his kingdom in a world torn by war; he came to help us and others to change our lives, to believe wholeheartedly in the Good News and to follow him, so that we too are where he is and recognize that God the Father loves us as much as he loves Jesus (John 14:6; 11:25; 10:10; 15:11; 14:27; Mark 1:15; John 16:27; 15:9).
It is a message and a mission that many no longer receive easily.
Whether they mistakenly think that science has refuted faith, or that the problem of evil has refuted the possibility of a good God, or that clergy sex abuse scandals have invalidated the testimony of the Church, or that the frigidity with which so many secularized Christians live their faith has revealed its inability to inspire, or a score of other possible reasons people cite for stifling the appeal of Christian faith and life, it is clear that proclaiming effectively gospel to every creature is hard work – but so is trying to convince down-to-earth first-century Gentile and Jewish people that a crucified carpenter was not only raised from the dead but that he was the Savior of the world. The same blessing of the Holy Ghost that made their joint testimony fruitful desires to witness in tandem with us.
One of the most effective ways to do this is through charity.
In 1985, the future Pope Benedict XVI gave a radio address in which he focused on the “delightfully naïve images” of the Ascension in which the disciples look upwards as Jesus passes through the clouds. and all we see are the feet of Jesus, the same feet that women wanted to cling to after the Resurrection. Cardinal Ratzinger commented that we should recognize his feet and venerate them disguised in the feet around us as we follow Christ’s example of washing the feet of others just as he washed the feet of the apostles in the Cenacle.
“The true ascent of humanity,” he said, “takes place precisely when a man learns to turn humbly to another person, bowing deeply at his feet in the position of one who would wash the feet of the other. It is only in the humility that knows how to prostrate itself that can elevate a person.
To ascend, we must first descend humbly in acts of bodily and spiritual mercy, including imparting the faith to those who do not know it or who reject what they wrongly believe.
The ascension of Christ is supposed to lead us to an exodus not only in the future, but here and now: an exodus from self to God and others, a journey from fear to trust, a Passover from the flat earth of a world without God into the multidimensional reality of the kingdom of Christ.
The ascension of Christ is meant to uplift our hearts as it helps us to come to our knees. It is meant to help us grow to full stature in Christ as we respond to his trust by making us his missionaries, with the Holy Spirit, to renew the face of the earth. It is meant to fill us, even now, with lasting joy.