The Ascension of Jesus into Heaven. What does it mean for us?
It means that Jesus, who shared our humanity, has entered into the inner life of God. There is a human being dwelling within the Holy Trinity. The second person of the Holy Trinity is totally human. Pope Benedict has said that, “… man has found an everlasting place in God.”
So where do we go when we die? For baptized believers, we are already in Christ. We go to heaven because we are already in Christ because of our Baptism.
Jesus’ Ascension is our path, our way, our destiny. If we lose our way by rebelling against Christ, or departing from him, or ignoring him, then we lose our destiny. Jesus’ Ascension is our destiny. There is no other place to live.
St. Peter realized this. When Jesus taught the crowds about the Eucharist, that his Body was food to be eaten for eternal life, and his Blood was to be drunk, it shocked many, and many disciples left him. St. John the Evangelist writes,
As a result of this, many [of] his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.
Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?
Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.
There are other aspects of the Ascension that are important to note.
Jesus’ Ascension marks his last moments in his physical presence on Earth. It was the last time the Apostles would see him physically, on Earth. Luke tells us Jesus had been with them for forty days since his death and Resurrection, eating and drinking with them, and teaching them how to understand the Scriptures in light of his Resurrection and victory over death. Now he was leaving them. However, he assures them that he will be with them and never leave them. He tells them,
… in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.
Of course, he was speaking of the Pentecost.
If you were to ask the early Church, “Where did Jesus go when he ascended?” there would be two answers. Both answers would be correct. First, he returned to the Father, in the Holy Trinity. Second, that Jesus never left the Church. He entered the Church, and this is why the “Gates of Hell” can never prevail against the Church. Jesus is always present in his Church in the Sacraments, in his Eucharist, in Baptism and Confirmation and Reconciliation, in Marriage and Holy Orders, and in the Anointing of the Sick. Jesus is always in the Church, in his priests and bishops. Jesus always shepherds the Church. And the Church is connected to Heaven, because Jesus is in the Holy Trinity, in God. Each time we celebrate the Holy Eucharist, time meets eternity, on the Altar.
What does Jesus’ Ascension mean to us? Everything!
Everything we do in the Church prepares us to join Him, in Heaven, in Jesus, in the Holy Trinity. At his Ascension Jesus gave us our task.
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Go into the whole world
and proclaim the gospel to every creature.
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved;
whoever does not believe will be condemned.