Dear Parishioners of St Jerome’s and St Anne’s
‘As he said this, he was lifted up while they looked on, and a cloud took him from their sight’
Today, dear friends, the Church celebrates the great Feast of the Ascension of the Lord. We are asked to focus our prayer and thoughts on Jesus as he bids farewell to his apostles and is ‘lifted up’ to his Father. It marks the final moment of his earthly life and the completion of the mission he received from his Father; to reconcile every human being to God.
But this Feast day is not primarily about a farewell, an ending, a return home for Jesus. It is about those he has saved, those whom he has introduced into the family of God. It is about us, you and me. Firstly, then, let us ask where exactly did Jesus go? The Scriptures tell us that he was ‘lifted up’. This lifting up has inspired countless works of art, as Jesus is depicted among the clouds. But the meaning is far deeper. ‘Lifted up’ is a term with deep Old Testament roots. It denotes a ‘royal enthronement’. The Ascension is the enthronement, the victory of Jesus. His victory parade.
In victory parades of old, the conqueror returns with the spoils of war; treasure, gifts, slaves. What are the spoils of the victory parade of Jesus? Slaves? Yes, but no longer slaves! It is you and me taken into heaven, blinking in disbelief at the joy and light around us as we are led to the royal throne. There, our tattered rags are removed and we are cleansed and dressed as sons and daughters of the King. Sin, struggle, grace, triumph all make sense at this moment. We are no longer desperate outcasts and wanderers. We have been brought home.
Where is this home exactly? It is Heaven. But where is Heaven? Pope Benedict XVI, as always, has a simple but profound explanation.
‘Heaven does not indicate a place above the stars but something far more daring and sublime: it indicates Christ himself, the divine Person, who welcomes humanity fully and forever, the one in whom God and man are inseparably united for ever.
Man henceforth finds room in God for ever’.
The place where you and I will be inseparably united with God for ever. This is what our eyes are fixed on today. Tragedies come and go. Viruses come and go. Sufferings come and go. But when our earthly race has been run, it is God who awaits us and who has made room for each one of us in Him. With all that awaits us, let us be joyful and find comfort.
God bless you all!