The Ascension

Jesus was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God” (Mk 16:19).

This Sunday, we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension of our Lord. There has been a great debate among the scholars, whether the episode of ascension was a historical event.  But for the disciples it was most assuredly a spiritual event. They realized that their Master, who was with them, even after His resurrection, is now present only in Spirit.  Christ had completed his task and now the work of the disciples was begun; “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Act. 1:8).

Jesus had descended to this world to bring God to all. This descent meant sacrificing His divine status with the Father and accepting a humble status with humanity. Ultimately this decent lead Him to the death on the cross. Now, after the resurrection, since His mission in this world is completed, He was ascended to be restored from the Father all that he sacrificed at His descent.

The Early Church was brave enough to give Christ the title “the Lord”, which was reserved for emperors. This meant that emperors had the right of life or death over all their subjects; they could use them according to their wishes. The early church knew that their Master who ascended to heaven is the true Lord of life. He had descended to restore us from the bonds of sin and death – therefore He alone is the true Lord, the restorer of all life.

Many churches celebrate this feast on the Thursday of the sixth week of Easter, popularly known as ‘Ascension Thursday’. As we have seen many times, biblical numbers are figurative and signify something deeper. Luke wrote that Jesus was ascended on the 40th day after the resurrection. Here, it is the time Jesus spent after His resurrection through different apparitions to prepare the disciples for the coming of the Holy Spirit and for the future mission of the Church.

Luke begins the Act of the Apostles, addressing his writing to a person called Theophilus. The Greek meaning of this name is ‘one who loves God’. So, Luke is writing to every believer ‘who loves God’, who wants to know more about Christ’s works and how He now works in His church. Luke is telling us that Jesus is ascended to heaven so that He can send the Holy Spirit as our helper. It is through the Holy Spirit that Jesus is guiding his Church.

–Fr. Ranjan D’Sa OCD

Category Reflections