Feast of the Ascension - "I am with you always"
As a child I loved doing jigsaws. One thing I learnt was how important the last piece of the puzzle is. When the last piece is in place, then the picture can be enjoyed in its entirety. Well, the Ascension is like the last piece of the jigsaw of Jesus’ life. It gives us a full and final picture of who Jesus is. Sometimes people make the mistake of thinking of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection and that is it. But that is to leave the puzzle incomplete. Today was once a holy day, it was celebrated on a Thursday and children had a day off school but in order to give the feast more prominence it was moved to today- Sunday. As we complete the jigsaw today of Jesus’ life I want to draw your attention to the past, present, and future dimensions of the Ascension.
Firstly, the feast of the Ascension is about a past event, a specific moment in time. It’s when the curtain came down on Jesus’ life. What began in heaven with God came to earth and then went back to heaven again. With the ascension the scriptures are fulfilled. Jesus goes back to where he belongs. So the Ascension is about a key moment in salvation history when the risen Jesus was lifted up out of sight. This precise moment in history meant that Jesus’ life had come full circle. It was complete.
But today’s feast is not only about the past and completion. It is also about the present and continuation. If you look at the chapter and verse numbers of today’s readings you will see that the Ascension story is found at the very end of the gospel and the very start of the Acts of the Apostles. Jesus’ parting message as he left this world is that his work is to be carried on by us. Where Jesus has left off, we continue. Jesus says in today’s gospel that we are to be his witnesses in the world. We are to keep Christ alive and relevant.
The Ascension tells us about the past (the completion of Jesus’ life), the present (our continuation of his work) but it also about the future. On ascension day the disciples saw Jesus being lifted up to heaven. They got a glimpse of what awaits us when we die. Where Jesus has gone, we hope to follow. We believe that all will be revealed at the end of time when we stand before the judgement seat of God. Then the promise made to us will be fulfilled for Jesus wants us to be with him in his kingdom. So there is a strong futuristic dimension to the Ascension.
So in conclusion the Ascension is no small feast. This is no small celebration. The Ascension reveals the past, present and the future. Today’s mass seeks to broaden and deepen the richness of the Ascension. It gives us much to contemplate and celebrate. I encourage you to immerse yourself in this feast and make sure you give the final piece of the jigsaw of Jesus’ life all the full attention it deserves.