Does the Feast of the Ascension affect our lives in the here and now? Is it a commemoration of an event which occurred 2000 years ago? Or, could it be the key that helps unlock the very meaning of our lives and the plan of God for the entire created order?
The great western Bishop Augustine said: “Today our Lord Jesus Christ ascended into heaven; let our hearts ascend with him. Listen to the words of the Apostle: If you have risen with Christ, set your hearts on the things that are above where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God; seek the things that are above, not the things that are on earth. For just as he remained with us even after his ascension, so we too are already in heaven with him, even though what is promised us has not yet been fulfilled in our bodies.”
Our Baptism incorporated us into Jesus Christ, made us members of His Body, the Church. Therefore, as Augustine also wrote, “Where the Head is, there is the Body, where I am, there is my Church, we too are one; the Church is in me and I in her and we two are your Beloved and your Lover.” In other words, we have ascended with the Lord! He is the Head and we are members of His Body. We cannot be separated.
The Ascension does not mark the end of Jesus’ relationship with the Church but the beginning of a new way of His relating to the world, in and through the Church. Jesus Christ bridged heaven and earth. Through His Incarnation, His Saving Life, Death and Resurrection, we have been set free from the consequences of sin, including the sting of death.
The Ascension of the Lord is not a final act in the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ. Nor is it some kind of “intermission” to be concluded upon Christ’s Bodily return – which will most certainly occur. Rather, it is about a new way of being, living in Christ in the here and now. The Apostle Paul wrote to the early Christians in Galatia: “No longer do I live but Christ lives in me and the life I now live I live by faith in the Son of God.” (Galatians 2:19, 20) That is how we are invited to live, now.
Jesus said “Abide in me as I in you” (John 15:4). These are not mere sentiments of piety but meant to become reality, now. Christians can live differently – now – because we live “in” Jesus Christ. We can love differently – now. Christians can live differently – now – because we live “in” Jesus Christ. We can love differently now – because we love “in” Jesus Christ. We can “be” differently – now – because, as St. Paul wrote to the Colossians, “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God”. (Coll. 3:3) Our lives are “hidden in Christ”- now.
St. Paul encouraged the Christians in Corinth in his second letter to take such an examination: “Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you? Unless, of course, you fail the test. I hope you will discover that we have not failed.”