Most dioceses in the United States celebrate the Ascension of the Lord on Sunday, rather than on the Thursday 40 days after Easter, including the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. The confusing fact is that Luke tells us in the Acts of the Apostles that Jesus ascended into Heaven on the day of His resurrection. Likewise, Mark, Luke and John also tell us the the same in their Gospels. Matthew does not write of the Ascension specifically, but he does have Jesus meeting His disciples on a mountain that day. Now all this confuses me. I reconcile the time confusion in the varying accounts by assuming Jesus’ return to the Father happened on the day of His resurrection as written, and He appeared mystically to many during the ensuing forty days. Then the account in Acts recounts the final appearance and Luke ties it all up neatly. The fact is that Jesus was around and physically present as the Gospels indicate. He is God; He could do it as He willed.
So much for a history lesson… More important to remember, are these points I suggest:
- When Jesus finished His work on earth, He commissioned His disciples, and that includes us, to carry on His work. “Go and make disciples…” It is up to us to live as Christians and to be witnesses for Christ to others.
- Even though we cannot see His risen body except in images, He is still with us. At the end of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus told His disciples, “I am with you always.” How reassuring! We have the Eucharist. Jesus will never abandon us!
- Every week we confess that we “…believe in the resurrection of the dead and life everlasting.” We believe because at the Last Supper Jesus told us that He was “…going to make a place for you and… come back and take you with me so that where I am you may also be.” Jesus’ life and death and resurrection and ascension had to happen so that His words would be fulfilled, and so that we would know our way back to the Father. By heeding His words and following His model, we come to realize the Beatific Vision: everlasting life with the Father in Heaven.