Sunday, June 01, 2003

The Ascension of the Lord

Jesus ascended into Heaven 40 days after His Resurrection, which is why Christians have always celebrated the Feast of the Ascension on the Thursday which falls 40 days after Easter. For pastoral reasons, however, many Catholic dioceses in the U.S. observe the feast on the following Sunday, which is today this year. This doesn't mean that the feast has been moved: Jesus ascended after 40 days, not after 43 days. It simply means that the observance of the feast is transferred to a Sunday.

What I want to write about, though, is the reason for the Ascension, or better, a reason for the Ascension. Personally, I would often wonder why Jesus had to ascend at all... why couldn't He simply have remained on earth until the end of time? It seemed to me that this would have solved a lot of problems, like belief in Him, and the governance of His Body, the Church.

There are a number of possible answers to this question, but there is one in particular which I personally find most satisfactory: Jesus ascended and no longer dwells with us as He did 2000 years ago because He wants us to raise our minds to spiritual things. Because Jesus is not visibly present to us as He was to the first disciples, we are forced to ponder the invisible and the eternal; we cannot remain focused solely on the here and now, but must regularly turn our gaze Heavenward, where our Lord and Savior now dwells. Spiritual things, after all, are higher and greater than the the simply-material; by existing beyond our physical sight, Jesus helps us to contemplate and meditate that which is higher and greater.

As I said, there are other reasons which could be given to answer the "why?" of the Ascension, and for others, those answers may be more satisfactory. For me, however, this is the reason which gives me comfort and consolation.

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