The WORD in Other Words by Fr Benigno Beltran SVD (Philippines)
6th Sunday of Easter – Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord
Acts 1:1-11, Eph 1:17-23 or Heb 9:24-28; 10:19-23, Lk 24:46-53
Today, we celebrate the feast of our Lord‘s Ascension: “While they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took them from their sight,” as the First Reading narrates. We celebrate the fulfilment of Christ‘s promise to Mary Magdalene: “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” (Jn. 20:17). The feast of the Ascension gives us confidence that as members of Christ‘s body, we too can go where he has preceded us. He entered heaven “that he might now appear before God in our behalf” (Heb. 9:24).
Christ‘s Ascension gives us hope of one day entering into glory with him, as the Second Reading proclaims, that we may know what hope belongs to God‘s call. “what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones, and what is the surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe, in accord with the exercise of his great might.”
The Ascension symbolises the irreversible entry of Jesus‘ humanity into divine glory, where he is seated at the right hand of the Father. He participates in God‘s power and authority. His Ascension is the fulfilment of his coming down from heaven as the Divine Word, as human. Now he can appear in his glorified flesh in God‘s presence on our behalf. Paul stressed the same active presence of “Christ Jesus who died or rather was raised up, who is at the right hand of God who intercedes for us” (Rom. 8:34).
“The Son of Man will be lifted up” (Jn. 3:14). To the Risen One is given, as the prophet Daniel‘s vision proclaimed, “dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion which shall not pass away, and his Kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” In Acts 5:31, St. Peter says that God has exalted Jesus at his right hand, as Ruler and Saviour, to bring repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. Today‘s Gospel also says: “the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem .”
Jesus the Christ, having finally entered the heavenly Jerusalem, intercedes constantly for us as the Mediator, assuring us of the permanent outpouring of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It is also the culmination of his self—revelation: “When you lift up the Son of Man, you will realise that I AM” (Jn. 8:28), recalling the name that Yahweh revealed to Moses in Ex. 3:14: “I am Who | Am.” Jesus claimed oneness with the Father. Thus the Ascension also has a revelatory function, apart from a redemptive one. We and the whole world are saved by his death, by his rising again, and by his being lifted up and exalted at his Ascension into heaven.