for the Ascension of the Lord
Acts 1:1-11 - Eph 1:17-23 - Mt 28:16-20
by Canon Dr. Daniel Meynen
The Ascension of Jesus
Acts 1:1, In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commandment through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3, To them he presented himself alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days, and speaking of the kingdom of God. 4, And while staying with them he charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, "you heard from me, 5, for John baptized with water, but before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit." 6, So when they had come together, they asked him, "Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" 7, He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8, But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth." 9, And when he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10, And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11, and said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven."
Eph 1:17, [I pray] that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power in us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20, which he accomplished in Christ when he raised him from the dead and made him sit at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come; 22, and he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, 23, which is his body, the fulness of him who fills all in all.
Mt 28:16, Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17, And when they saw him they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18, And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19, Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age."
"As they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight." (Acts 1:9) That is how Saint Luke expressed himself in the Acts of the Apostles. Forty days after having resurrected from the dead, Jesus lifted himself up to Heaven, which is the dwelling of God. Let us be sure to note this difference between the Ascension of Jesus and the Assumption of Mary, which is celebrated on August 15. In his Ascension, Jesus lifted himself up to Heaven: Jesus is God and he enters Heaven, his home, by his own divine power. In the Assumption of Mary into Heaven, it is God who takes Mary to Heaven, by drawing her to himself: the word Assumption comes from the Latin "assumere", which means "to take to oneself".
Was it necessary for Jesus to rise up to Heaven? And if so, why? The answer can be found in man himself. Indeed, man is composed of a spiritual soul and a material body. In virtue of its resemblance to the divinity (cf. Gen 1:26), the human soul is immortal. When the soul is united to the body of a man, then this body participates in the immortality of the soul: this was the state in which man found himself before original sin; it is also the state of the risen Jesus, and the state of all those who are resurrected in him. Once man sinned, God permitted, by his command, that each man and woman would die, and thus that, through death, the soul would separate from the body, the latter becoming a corpse.
At the death of Jesus on the Cross of Calvary, the immortal soul of Jesus entered into the Glory of the Father, obtaining by this very fact, for all the souls of the just, their long-awaited glorification. Jesus having merited, through his Passion and his death, to be glorified by his Father, it was necessary that not only the human soul of Jesus should be glorified, but also his body: Jesus is the Savior of the whole man, both soul and body. Thus, after the death of Jesus, the first thing the soul of Jesus did was to resurrect his body: by the divine Power, the soul of Jesus gave life to his body by reuniting with it. As the soul of Jesus was glorified in Heaven, before the face of the Father, the second thing that the soul of Jesus did was to glorify his body by lifting it up to Heaven, under the gaze of the Father!
In Heaven, the Father sees his Son, and the Son is ceaselessly under the gaze of the Father! Jesus wanted to preserve the marks of the nails in his hands and feet; he also wanted to preserve the open wound in his pierced side. By the marks of the nails, the Father ceaselessly sees how much his Son has suffered for the sins of men... By the open wound in the side, which leads to the Heart of his Son, a wound that did not cause Jesus to suffer, since he had already been dead, the Father ceaselessly sees all that faithful Christians, as well as all men of good will, suffer now for their neighbors...
God's Heaven is something we cannot see. God's Heaven is not the sky above our heads. God's Heaven is invisible. So where is God's Heaven? It seems that Jesus gave us a clue, saying: "The kingdom of God is in the midst of you." (Lk 17:21) In this sense, God's Heaven should not be sought outside of us, but rather within us. And thus God, as well as the risen Jesus who went up to Heaven, must be sought within us! As Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity wrote in her well-known prayer: "O my God, Trinity that I adore... Pacify my soul, make it your heaven, your beloved dwelling and the place of your rest."
Let us ask the Most Blessed Virgin Mary to help us to understand, always a little better, all of the Mystery of Christ, our Lord and our God! Amen!