Ascension 2017 Year A:
Today we celebrate the Ascension of Jesus, today we mark the day when Jesus returns to his Father in heaven. I have always found this day a little bit odd. If I were planning everything out, I think I would have Jesus stay here on earth. We could build him a big castle. We could put him in charge of everything. Why not have the Son of God here as an earthly figure, ruler?
But, of course, I think that way because I’m small-minded. Also, I think that way because the ascension looks like Jesus leaving us. And I think all of us would agree, we don’t want Jesus to leave right?
But, listen again to the words of the Gospel: I am with you always. These words from St. Matthew are the last words in the gospel. This is how this story of Jesus ends. Not with Jesus leaving or abandoning us; rather, Jesus says I am with you always. Doesn’t that sound much better?
The ascension of Jesus is not his departure from our lives, not his departure from the Church, not his departure from earth. Rather, the ascension of Jesus is the transformation of his presence. While on earth, Jesus was in a certain location, at a certain time. Now that he is raised from the dead and ascended to heaven, he is constantly present, constantly available, constantly with us. Now that Jesus has ascended beyond the realm of space and time, he is not limited or restricted. Rather, Christ is now with each one of us in a personal and intimate way.
So, you see, my small-minded concept of Jesus the great human ruler would actually restrict and limit Jesus’ presence in the world. But, his ascension makes him present to all people, to all places, at all times. In fact, I don’t think it is too much to say that the ascension of Jesus is actually what allows Christianity to exist.
Christianity is the lived relationship with Christ, right? It begins with the Lord’s command to baptize. Then he tells them to make disciples. What is a disciple? A disciple is a person who knows Jesus. A disciple is a person who follows Jesus. Well, I would argue that without the ascension it would be impossible for us to be disciples of Jesus. How would we be able to know him? How would we be able to talk to him? How would we be able to follow him and have a relationship with him if he were limited to a certain time and place? Impossible. Yet, with the ascension: “I am with you always until the end of the age.”
So, today we celebrate the ascension. This is not the day where Jesus departs, this is the day where Jesus becomes intimately available for each and every one of us. So, let’s open our hearts to the Lord and listen to him say in our own lives: I am with you always.