Ascend with Christ

Feast of the Ascension

Beloved in Jesus Christ, today we celebrate the Ascension of Our Lord into heaven. St. Leo the Great says, ‘At Easter, it was the Lord’s Resurrection which was the cause of our joy; our present rejoicing is on account of his ascension into heaven.'[i]
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Now this event actually involves all of us; Christ’s entire Mystical Body is ultimately being brought to heaven. ‘And when I am lifted up, I will draw all men to myself,’ he said. Today is the day when our human nature is carried up to the very throne of God.[ii] Jesus shows us the way, he shows us our future which is already beginning. To be resurrected in our body is one thing, to be glorified and brought to the loveliness of heaven, to the joy of union with Our Heavenly Father, well – that is quite another; but this is where He is taking us!
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Before considering the meaning of all this for ourselves, let us go back to that day, let’s place ourselves with Jesus, on that day. Gentilucci[iii] says that it is most likely that Christ ascended at the Mount of Olives where he had begun his passion. We remember that after his resurrection, Our Lord had spent 40 days – a month and a half – living with his Apostles, teaching them, eating with them, showing them how to say Mass, how to preach – all of this they did with a Resurrected Man – As St. Luke says:[iv] ‘he showed himself alive after his passion by many proofs during 40 days…..speaking of the kingdom of God while eating with them…’ their Faith could not have been stronger. Their Faith, having known a Resurrected Man – having seen in Christ their own destiny – for these apostles, who would ultimately become martyrs – their faith would remain unshaken even through tortures and prison. They had seen their own destiny, that death has been conquered.
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But was Christ the only resurrected person they had seen? It would seem not. In the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 27, there is a sort of hidden statement, at the Lord’s crucifixion, which says: ‘the earth quaked, rocks were rent, tombs opened, and bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep arose, coming forth out of the tombs AFTER his resurrection; they went into the holy city, and appeared to many.’
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So after the Lord’s resurrection, there were these other people who had died, who came out alive from the tombs. What happened to all these people? Origen, St. Jerome,[v] St. Thomas,[vi] and others[vii] believe that they ascended to heaven with Jesus. Among that group who had risen from the dead, it is believed by many[viii] was St. Joseph.[ix] Even Pope John XXIII mentioned this, saying that it may be piously believed.
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In any case, as we come to this day of the Ascension, when the Lord in his visible presence would leave his Apostles, was it a sad day? Not at all. Silveira writes that on the way to Bethany from where Christ would ascend, there was surely a sort of procession through Jerusalem; Jesus with his Mother Mary, the saints of whom we have spoken;next the Apostles and the disciples who had formerly followed Jesus. Silveira says ‘this privileged band of the faithful no doubt passed through the streets of Jerusalem,’ while the astonished spectators looked on. ‘No one had the courage to opposed the march of this blessed procession’ as they marched off toward Bethany.[x]
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So speaking with his Mother and these disciples, the procession ascended that mountain from where every part of Jerusalem could be seen. Cornelius Lapide[xi] says that the nearer Jesus approached the summit, surely the more sweetly he spoke to his disciples, like a good father who leaving a beloved family. John Chrysostom says that to Mary were whispered great mysteries, and then she kissed him, and engulfed in a cloud, he was taken up to heaven.
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Were they sad? not at all. They recalled the words he had spoken to them: ‘you will see me again, and on that day no one will take your joy from you.'[xii] And as St. Luke says: ‘They returned to Jerusalem with great joy.'[xiii]
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Why were they so happy at Our Lord’s Ascension? They had Faith. Jesus leads the way up to heaven, and he brings our humanity, he brings our human nature there with him.
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In this life we are baptized into Christ, we live our days as a Christian, we follow Jesus in this journey. And we will follow him up in his Ascension, to heaven – its our goal. To go up there! Visiting a hospital one time, I was on the elevator, and a lady herself stepped in as well. I asked: ‘Going up?’ ‘OH I HOPE SO FATHER!!’ she said.
Yes, we wish to ascend. Jesus’ words echo in our mind: ‘Come, follow me.’ ‘Lord, we DO wish to follow you – to heaven.’
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As St. Leo the Great says, ‘Our Redeemer’s visible presence has now passed into the sacraments. Now we live by Faith. This Faith in the Lord throughout history has led men and women, young girls and boys to give their life’s blood for this Faith. It is a faith that has driven out devils, healed the sick and raised the dead. Our Faith impels us to live daily the life of Christ, and God-willing, ascend with him to heaven.
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You know, when my own father passed away, we kids surrounded his bed with prayers; we prayed for God’s mercy as he closed his eyes. and I suppose we all like to receive a ‘sign’ from God – Well, I felt some peace, when I realized: Dad! You died on the Ascension!’ – it gave me some peace.
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May we be worthy to Ascend to heaven with Jesus. May the Blessed Virgin help us in the journey of this life, that we ourselves, may ascend with Christ to Paradise.
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Entrusted to the prayers of St. Bernadette .
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[i] St. Leo the Great: Roman Breviary, Office for Friday of the 6th week of Easter.
[ii] St. Leo the Great
[iii] Life of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, Msgr. Romuald Gentilucci, p. 370.
[iv] Acts 1:3;
[v] Life of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, Msgr. Romuald Gentilucci, p. 370.
[vi] Summa, Supplement, Q. 77, a1, reply to Obj. 3. Thomas is open to the question however in III, Q. 53, a3.
[vii] ‘Origen, St. Jerome, St. Bede, St. Clement of Alexandria and others believe that they ascended in the body to heaveh. Gentilucci, p. 373 note.
[viii] Pope St. John XXII, in a homily on the Ascension,1960.
[ix] Gentilucci, p. 268: ‘the common opinion of the doctors, is that St. Joseph was of the number of the Saints who arose with the divine Master….and at last on the 40th day, with Christ, he ascended body and soul to heaven.’ The footnote says: This is the opinion of St. Bernardine of Sienna, who says: ‘as the family lived a laborious life on earth, so they reign, body and soul in amorous glory in heaven.’ St. Francis de Sales says it is without doubt. Another proof is that no part of the body of St. Joseph is venerated.
[x] Gentilucci, p. 370
[xi] Gentilucci, p. 372
[xii] John 16:22
[xiii] Luke 24:52

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