Scripture Study: The Ascension of the Lord

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By Marc Massery (May 11, 2018)
To read the Scriptures for this weekend, click here

Sunday, May 13 — The Ascension of the Lord
Acts 1:1-11
• Ps 47:2-3, 6-7, 8-9
• Eph 1:17-23
• Mk 16:15-20


The Feast of the Ascension of the Lord reminds us that Christ came to lead us to full glory — to become who God originally created us to be.

After spending 40 days with His disciples following His Resurrection, Christ ascended to Heaven. Just as we say in our creeds, the Gospel today says, "The Lord Jesus … was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God" (Mk 16:19).

Why the Ascension?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains, "Christ's body was glorified at the moment of his Resurrection …" (659). A glorified body does not belong on earth, where creation imperfectly reflects the glory of God. Fully glorified beings belong in Heaven, so Christ needed to return as soon as He was done walking the earth to confirm His victory over death.

We see what a glorified Christ looks like through His Transfiguration atop Mount Tabor during His public ministry. Christ ascended the mountain with His disciples and then "He was transfigured before them … His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light …" (Matt, 17:2). We could not behold Christ's glorified body here on earth if He appeared to us as He really is. Therefore, as He walked the earth those 40 days, He hid His glory "under the appearance of ordinary humanity" (Catechism, 534). When He ascended, He reacquired His fully glorified appearance in Heaven.

Of course, when we decide to follow Christ, we do not become dazzling white here on earth. In fact, we cannot reach full glorification until we first do what Christ did — climb Calvary and die. To enter into full glory at the end of time, we must first submit to God's will here on earth, embrace our crosses, and die to ourselves daily.

The Ascension reminds us that our daily sacrifices and ultimate death will lead us to Heaven through the power of Christ's redeeming work.

Though we wait to experience glorification, we receive confirmation of our future glory here on earth. In today's Gospel, Jesus says, "These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages … They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover" (Mk 16: 17-18).

We do not have to wait until we reach Heaven to partake in the glory of God. The Gospel says, "But they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs," (Mk 16:20).

We also reflect God's glory when we love our enemies, turn the other cheek, or endure great suffering with a sense of peace. In fact, we reflect God's glory any time we do something good.

The disciples did not become sad after Christ ascended. Although they could no longer see His face, through faith, they knew that His presence in Heaven would serve them in a more powerful way. In His glory, He exists beyond space, beyond time, and can advocate for us every moment.

Thanks to the Lord's Ascension, we realize that we will never be alone in our trials. And we can look forward to our full glorification when we reunite with Christ in His glory in Heaven.

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