AFTER HIS RESURRECTION, Our Lord Jesus Christ had been appearing and disappearing, showing himself alive to his Apostles, then leaving them suddenly. After speaking to his Apostles, “Jesus was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God” (Mk 16: 19). This was the only apparition that took place by appointment (Matt 16: 16), the others came unexpectedly. More were present at it than any other, and in it, the official commission was given to the Universal Church.

Jesus Christ descends from heaven (the Word became flesh) and ascends back into heaven. After completing his work, the Word returns to the Father who sent him. The Ascension is the indispensable expression of the exaltation of Christ. God has highly exalted him (Phil 2: 9). Our High priest has gone up first, passing through the heavens and penetrating behind the veil into the sanctuary where he intercedes in the presence of God (Heb 9: 24-28). He entered into a new state where his contact with us is spiritualised. His visible presence is withdrawn until he comes again in glory. He has gone to prepare a place for his chosen ones; he will come and lead them there so that they might be with him in his glory.

Jesus says, “I am with you always until the end of the world” (Matt 28: 20). St Chrysostom states: “Not with them alone did He promise to be, but with all that come to the faith after them. The Apostles were not destined to remain to the end of the world, but He addresses the faithful as forming one body.” That is, He addresses the Church, and every member of the Church as such, according to his station (cf 1 Cor. 12: 4). He promises the Continuity of the Church, unbroken through every generation (all days). He promises the Perpetuity of the Church (to the end of the world). He promises the Indefectibility of the Church, that in every age, she shall be His faithful representative, teaching what He taught, and Himself teachings through her (make disciples, teaching them to observe all things). In respect of His Church, He is ever with us, though His visible presence, is withdrawn from us (Jn 16: 7).

In a relay race, we have often witnessed the passing of the baton from one runner to the other. At the Ascension, Jesus passed the baton of responsibility for the Kingdom of God to His fellows. He commissioned them to complete the work he had begun.

The Scripture says, “When he went up to the very heights, he took many captives with him; he gave gifts to men” (Ps 68: 18; Eph 4: 8). This saying is applied to Jesus. The Holy Spirit is the great gift given to us.

When Our Lord ascended into heaven, he did not leave us orphans. He has sent the Holy Spirit to be with us, to teach us all truth and to sanctify us. He is the Spirit of love who will keep us united with Christ in life that we can say with St Paul, “In our union with Christ Jesus, he raised us up with him, to rule with him in the heavenly world” (Eph 2: 6) If we are united with Christ, he will take us across this troubled ocean of sin and sorrow into the Kingdom of his Father, where we shall be co-heirs with him.

Once an adventurer tied a thick rope across the roaring and frightful Niagara Falls and crossed over from one side to the other walking on that rope. Thousands of people who were watching clapped and cheered the man. One little boy was so excited that he approached the man and said, “Sir, can you take me along as you walk on the rope to the other side?” To everybody’s surprise, the man said, “Come” and extended his hands towards the boy who was so scared and in no time, he disappeared into the crowd.

We all claim to be followers of Christ, but at times, we lack confidence in him. When he calls us to follow  the way of the Cross, we say, “Yes, Lord, yes Lord” but we are afraid and we back away. Do we really believe that at the other end of this way, eternal glory awaits us?

“Out of sight, out of mind” is sometimes like this among us. When a person is away from us, we forget about him/her. It is not like this with Jesus. At the Last Supper, Jesus Christ used the words, “Do this in memory of me” indicating that the Eucharistic ritual established by Him is to be understood, not only as the sign of Christ’s death and Resurrection, but as the living memory of the events commemorated there namely of his sacrificial death and resurrection. When the duly ordained priest pronounces “This is my body” and “This is my blood” over “bread and wine,” these same words of institution at Mass, we are celebrating in a sacramental way the power and presence of the risen Lord.

The Eucharist is the sacrament of hope which is the way Jesus chose to come back and dwell with us always. This is the fulfilment of His promise “Know that I am with you always even to the end of the world.” It is the indisputable belief of the Catholic Church that the Body and Blood, together with the soul and divinity of Jesus Christ and therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really and substantially contained in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.

Christ is the sole Mediator between God and man, the unique link between God and human kind. As the second person of the Blessed Trinity, he had played his role as the mediator already in God’s work of creation, and of his covenant with Israel. By his death and resurrection, He became the unique and surpassing Mediator.

God is present in every human being. He wants everyone to find fullness of life in Him. This is the mystery of unity already existing among all, in spite of the differences of creed. The Catholic Church is in favour of dialogue with other religions to establish positive and constructive relations with individuals and groups of differing creeds, and to be mutually enriched.

Let us be witnesses and teachers in our own homes, in our places of work and study. We should carry out Jesus’ commission wherever we find ourselves. Let our lives speak more eloquently than our lips when it comes to witnessing and teaching. People would much rather see a sermon than listen to one! Let us remain united to our Risen and glorified Lord through faith and the sacraments, and seek the things that are above. Our real home is in heaven. Christ’s  Ascension  is  our hope of glory, for he says, “Where I am, my servant shall be also.”

He remains the same kind, compassionate and caring Jesus whom we see in the Gospel. The Feast of Ascension invites us to come and know Jesus in a new way. On our own, we cannot. Let us pray with Apostle Paul, “May the God of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give us a spirit of wisdom and perception ... to bring us to full knowledge of him.” Amen.

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