Today we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension. I began writing this homily by asking myself, what relevance does the Ascension of Jesus hold for us? What can it mean for us today? Here are three points of reflection on today’s feast.
The redemption story is completed
First, the Ascension of Jesus reveals our destiny. The Ascension of Jesus is important because it completes the redemption story. Jesus not only came from God but also returned back to God. If human life is to be modeled around the life of Jesus, then Ascension becomes the final link in the chain of redemption. For us, this means that we now know not only where we come from but also where we are going. In other words, we are a people who know our origin and our destiny.
With the mystery of our origin and destiny revealed, all that is left is our life on earth. If Jesus is our model, then, the implication is that we live our lives in a way that is true to our origin and destiny. If we have come from where Jesus came, if we want to follow Jesus to where he returned, then we are invited to live on earth just as Jesus lived on earth. Jesus’ life is the template for our lives.
Hearts open to hope
Second, the Ascension gives us hope. Let me read for you the prayer that St. Paul makes for the Ephesians in today’s second reading. “May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of him. May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call.” St. Paul is asking for two things for the Ephesians: that we know God and the hope that comes from God’s call.
We live in times when global and national events have dented our hope. Two years of the pandemic have broken the human spirit. A senseless war continues to claim human lives, create more than ten million refugees, and make life difficult for people around the world. To add to it, we are grieving the loss of many lives from back-to-back mass shootings. In so many ways, we are all grieving not the loss of human lives but the loss of basic humanity, loss of a sense of decency, loss of respect for human dignity, loss of the value of human life, and loss of a sense of right and wrong. Words fail me. I am tongue-tied at the state of our affairs.
In this situation, let us make Paul’s prayer our own. May we be open to the Spirit of wisdom. May we be guided by the deep knowledge of God’s marvelous love. May the eyes of our hearts be opened. May we know the hope that belongs to God’s call. May the hope that the Ascension of Jesus reveals for humanity, never fade.
New dignity and a new purpose
Third, the Ascension gives us a new dignity. The scene at the end of today’s gospel reading is very revealing. Jesus had slowly disappeared into the sky. But the disciples were standing gazing into the sky. The angels came and told them, “Why are you standing there looking at the sky?” (Acts 1:11). In other words, the disciples were not meant to be sky-gazers. Rather, Jesus had just given them new dignity. By saying, “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth,” (Acts 1:18), Jesus gave his disciples a new purpose and a new hope. Jesus had ascended, but now the disciples must take his place. Now, they were to be partners with Christ in his redeeming work.
Today, as we celebrate the feast of the Ascension of Jesus, the greatest realization we can make is of the new dignity, the new purpose, and the new hope that Christ has given us. Let us go and bear witness to God’s immeasurable love, to God’s immense goodness, to God’s unending mercy. Let us be witnesses to the value of creation and of all life, to basic human decency, to respect for human dignity, and to a sense of right and wrong. Let us be for the world what Jesus was for the world. Let us live out our newfound dignity, purpose, and hope.
May our participation in the Eucharist make us worthy of sharing in the destiny that Christ has prepared for us. May we follow where Jesus has gone. Amen.
Fr. Satish Joseph was ordained in India in 1994 and incardinated into the archdiocese of Cincinnati in 2008. He has a Masters in Communication and Doctorate in Theology from the University of Dayton. He is presently Pastor at Immaculate Conception and St. Helen parishes in Dayton, OH. He is also the founder Ite Missa Est ministries (www.itemissaest.org) and uses social media extensively for evangelization. He is also the founder of MercyPets (www.mercypets.org) — a charitable fund that invites pet-owners to donate a percent of their pet expenses to alleviate child hunger. MercyPets is active in four countries since its founding in December 2017. Apart from serving at the two parishes, he facilitates retreats, seminars and parish missions.