Ascension 2016 Year C:
Think of the last time you went on a trip. Did you bring anything back with you? I’m betting most of you took lots of pictures. It’s so easy now with our cell phones to record moments and keep them with us. Or maybe you brought back a souvenir. Maybe you brought back a shell from the beach. When I go to a new golf course, I like to buy a hat. Maybe you buy a t-shirt from one of those tourist traps. You know the ones that say: I went to the Grand Canyon and all I got was this crummy T-Shirt. We like taking pictures on vacation and buying souvenirs because it helps us to stay connected to that place, it helps us to remember that time we spent. It’s like we are carrying that vacation around with us.
I was thinking about all of this because today we celebrate the feast of the Ascension of the Lord. It’s like Jesus is ending his earthly vacation and is returning to the right hand of the Father. And what did he bring back with him? Us…
God the Father sent his only son on one amazing trip. It begins with the annunciation. The angel says to Mary: will you welcome God? Will you be the mother of the savior? She says yes and the word becomes flesh. The eternal son of God becomes the son of Mary. The eternal is born in time as our savior and redeemer. 9 months later he is born in humble circumstances. We celebrate his birth every year on Christmas. After his childhood, the spirit descended upon him at his baptism and he preached the good news, he healed the sick, he told people of the Father’s love. To show that love he dies on the cross, but he goes into the realm of the dead to bring with him all those imprisoned by the power of death. 40 days ago we celebrated his resurrection. He rose from the dead to bring new life to those who believe in him. And now, 40 days later, he makes his return to the Father. But, what an amazing adventure he was on. And notice something really important: the bible never says: and the word stopped being flesh. The eternal son of God does not remove his humanity when he returns to heaven. Rather, he takes his humanity with him.
That is why I said we are like Jesus’ souvenirs. Jesus takes us all with him to the heavenly realm. Just like we take pictures and souvenirs so that we can stay connected to the great trips of our lives, Jesus takes us with him so that his time on earth is not ended. Just because Jesus has gone to heaven does not mean he has stopped loving us, it does not mean he has stopped giving himself for us, it does not mean he has stopped being human. Rather, Jesus’ pilgrimage on earth might have ended, but it started a new voyage. The pilgrimage of the human race to heaven. For us, this journey starts right here and now, but it will last forever. Because of the Ascension, our lives have a new direction. The journey we are on begins here on earth, but will last forever in heaven.
Think a little bit this week about the incarnation. Think about God and humanity being united in the person of Jesus. Think about the fact that Jesus did not stop being human just because he went up to heaven. Rather, he remains united to us now and forever.
Jesus’s ascension is not a departure, he didn’t betray us and leave us behind. Rather, he is leading us to where we all want to go. But the journey can seem long and difficult. This is why the Lord gave us the Eucharist. This holy Eucharist we celebrate and receive is food for this great journey, this great adventure. Just as Jesus journeyed to the Father, so we are on a journey to heaven. Today we receive this Holy food so that we might have the strength to follow where Christ our savior has gone today.