Happy Mother’s Day! Beyond the flowers, candy, cards and presents it is important to tell your mother “thank you.” This extends not only to your birth mother but to all those who have nurtured and sustained you, whether they be aunts or grandmothers or teachers or whoever. Happy Mother’s Day to all who nurture, educate and help us to grow. Mothers who balance both a career and child-rearing are taking on quite a lot; often more than two full-time jobs! It is amazing that so many do so well in fulfilling both roles. We all owe mothers a debt of gratitude. Happy Mother’s Day!
Today we also celebrate the Feast of the ASCENSION, which commemorates Jesus’ going (or “ascending”) up to heaven, or as the Catechism of the Catholic Church states “the irreversible entry of His humanity into divine glory.” (CCC 659) This feast marks the final stage in the drama of Jesus’ redemptive work. Jesus now remains exalted at the Father’s right hand till He comes again in glory to judge the living and the dead.
We should not naively think of the Ascension as a physical going “up,” but rather as a passing into a different way of being. Or so it was for Jesus.
Technically the Ascension occurred on the Mount of Olivet (just outside Jerusalem) in approximately the year 36, 40 days after Easter, which would put it on a Thursday. Indeed, in the diocese of Lincoln, NE the Feast of the Ascension occurred three days ago, last Thursday. But here in Austin and in much of the rest of the United States Jesus has to hang around another three days to celebrate his Ascension.
What difference does the Ascension make? “He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty” we affirm in the Creed. But just what does that mean? No doubt it was good for Jesus, but what does that mean to us?
If Pope Francis were to do to the Ascension what Pope Benedict XVI did to Limbo, (which is to basically torpedo it as a Catholic belief and say it no longer counts and you don’t have to believe it anymore,) would it make any difference to you?
What is “ascension” all about and why does it matter to me? I think the Ascension only makes sense in the light of Easter. Jesus rose from the dead. But His triumph did not stop there. The completion of His triumph is His being exalted to the right hand of the Father, that is, to complete equality and power with God the Creator. The Ascension is the logical completion of Jesus’ complete and total victory over sin and death. The victory was won on Easter morning. Now at the Ascension Jesus enters fully into His Glory and all the formalities are completed.
In a way the Ascension of Jesus into glory is God’s complete ratification of the Resurrection and the guarantee that Jesus will raise us up as well. The Ascension is a further affirmation for us of Jesus’ total victory. So we have reason to celebrate as well. Happy Ascension!