Tomorrow is Ascension Thursday, reminding us that we have ten final days of the Easter season to enjoy before Pentecost Sunday. On Ascension Thursday we commemorate when our Lord Jesus “was taken up into heaven and took His seat at the right hand of God.” (Mark 16:19) But why did our Lord Jesus ascend into heaven? Wouldn’t it have been better for the Church if He had stayed and guided us here on earth? Pope Jesus! Lord knows we certainly could have used His help navigating all the difficulties we’ve faced over the last 2000 years.
However, as is always the case, Jesus had our best interest at heart when He ascended into heaven. Although Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth (John 16:13) and has remained with us until the end of the age in the Eucharist under the humble appearances of bread and wine (Matt. 28:20; John 6), He nevertheless withdrew His bodily, human presence from us for at least three very important reasons: to increase our faith, uplift our hope, and help direct the fervor of our charity.
The supernatural virtue of faith is, as Sacred Scripture tells us, “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1) By ascending into heaven, Jesus has increased the virtue of faith in all of us who have not seen His human, resurrected, glorified body. As Jesus tells faithful St. Thomas the Apostle, “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” (John 20:29) It’s as if this could be added to the Beatitudes preached in the Sermon on the Mount! However, Jesus couldn’t preach this at that time because he was still bodily present to all His hearers!
Also, the supernatural virtue of hope is uplifted by Jesus’ ascension because we now know that it is possible for our human nature to go to heaven. Jesus told us, “I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to Myself, so that where I am you also may be.” (John 14:3) Our hope is fortified and strengthened because Jesus Christ, true God and true man, has already walked the path to our heavenly homeland, and is awaiting us there to welcome us home.
Finally, Jesus’ ascension helps us direct the fervor inherent in the supernatural virtue of charity. Jesus teaches us during His Sermon on the Mount that “where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” (Matt. 6:21) Our Lord Jesus Christ is the true treasure of every Christian heart, so by ascending into heaven Jesus has helped direct the charitable fervor of our hearts towards heaven. As St. Paul reminds us, “think of what is above, not of what is on earth.” (Col. 3:2)
In preparation for Ascension Thursday, I’d like to conclude with a prayer of thanksgiving: “Thank you Jesus, for spending time with your apostles and giving us the Church. But thank you also for ascending into Heaven to increase our faith, uplift our hope, and direct the fervor of our charity to live forever with You and all the saints in Heaven. Amen.”
Br. John Winkowitsch, O.P. | Meet the Student Brothers in Formation HERE