Gospel Luke 24:46-53
“as he blessed them, he withdrew from them and was carried up to heaven …”
The story which we mark today is perhaps one of the most fantastic that we have in the Gospels. After his death and resurrection we’ve been regaled with tales of his numerous miraculous appearances to the disciples, and now we find him physically taken up into heaven, and seated at the right hand of God.
At the time, despite their many experiences with Jesus, it seems that they still had little understanding of him – indeed, they were still expecting him to establish an earthly Kingdom of Israel.
For the disciples this episode of his ascension must have been an amazing experience: one so real and so important to them that Luke records it twice, once here in this reading, and later in the Acts of the Apostles. One can scarcely imagine how deeply the events of the last three years of their lives would have impacted them. And now this – as he blesses them he is taken from them into heaven.
But what does all this mean for me today, in my life?
It seems that our own understanding of Jesus is fairly limited also – despite whatever study we may have done to grow in that area – the person of Jesus always ultimately remains a mystery, yet one we are so strongly drawn to because it is in him that we the whole of human experience lived out most fully. In the words of the Vatican II Council, he ‘reveals us to ourselves.’
So why am I asked to believe that he ascended, body and soul into heaven? His ascension, it seems, allows him to be closer with me, with all people of all times and places. He is no longer bound by time and space.
The Ascension, says Italian priest Fr Luigi Giussani, is a mystery that ‘completes the mystery of the Resurrection, amplifies and enlarges it to all of reality, all times, all history, eternity.’ (In the Depths of Things).
It establishes Jesus’ Kingdom on the unmovable reality of heaven as King of the universe, and Lord of history.
Food for thought
‘The Christian message announces the permanence of the fact of Christ, as a continuous happening – not something that happened once – but as something that still happens.’ (Luigi Giussani, Why the Church?, 203)