1:1-11; Psalm 47; Hebrews 9:24-28; 10:19-23; Luke 24:46-53
THEME OF THE READINGS Christ´s ascension to heaven marks both
an end, and a beginning: a finale to his early
ministry (Gospel), and the launch of the Church´s mission to
evangelize the world. The time of his return is unknown
(First Reading), thus, we need to ready at every moment.
DOCTRINAL MESSAGE Christ´s visible return to heaven assures
us that the One who suffered and died for us
sits at the right hand of the Father "on our
behalf" (First Reading). The Mass re-presents the sacrifice of Christ
on Calvary; Christ doesn´t "die again," as some non-Catholics misconstrue
the Church as teaching. Jesus´ death on the cross is
effective for redemption in all ages. Carried out in time,
his death brings fruits that go beyond time.
Yet, time retains a serious dimension within salvation history. "It
is appointed that men and women die once, and after
this the judgment" (Second Reading). The life we live right
now is the only life we have in which to
work out our eternal destiny. Time, in fact, is a
great gift of God: we know not its duration, so
Our Lord invites us to use it well ("For you
do not know on which day your Lord will come"
_ Matthew 24:42).
The relative brevity of life
should propel us to see every moment as a building
block for eternity. Indeed, its brevity helps give life its
very importance. Why get out of bed in the morning,
if life were endless? Earthly time being short, even our
simplest acts can take on a lofty quality _ "whether
you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything
for the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31). Christ´s very
ascension reminds us that he worked with a time limit.
Jesus left behind, so to speak, his Church,
the Holy Spirit, and a mission to proclaim his message
to the ends of the earth (Gospel). Baptism obliges us
to support this mission, be it through our prayers, our
financial support, or even our very lives.
Only Christ can open the Father´s house to us. So
we can have confidence that we too shall go where
he has preceded us (CCC 661). Jesus, the one priest
of the new and eternal Covenant, enters into heaven "to
appear in the presence of God on our behalf" (CCC
662). Our Lord´s ascension lets us live in the hope
of one day being with him for ever (CCC 666).
Death is the end of man´s earthly pilgrimage; there is
no reincarnation (CCC 1013).
PASTORAL APPLICATIONS Gift of
the Spirit. Christ´s gift of the Spirit does not preclude
the intervention of the Church. Indeed, the presumed movements of
the Spirit must be tested. "Do not trust every spirit
but test the spirits to see whether they belong to
God, because many false prophets have gone out into the
world" (1 John 4:1). The Spirit who guides the Church
"to all truth" (John 16:13) won´t lead us down a
wrong path. If we think the Spirit is telling us
one thing, but the Church says another, then we must
defer to the Church. More than a few souls have
strayed by pursuing what they think is an inspiration from
God, when in fact it was their own whims in
Jesus as intercessor. Christ is not a
mere historical figure. History hasn´t bracketed off Christ from us.
He remains living, now and always. The Christ to whom
we pray is a living God, and a living friend.
Although removed from our sight, he remains present among us,
supporting us through the sacraments and teaching us through the
magisterium. Our belief in his real presence in the Eucharist
should manifest itself in our comportment in church.
Time as Kingdom. We work out our eternity on earth.
Do we make the most of our time? How does
the amount of time we spend in prayer, Mass, and
works of charity measure up to the hours we spend
watching TV? By age 65 the average American will have
spent nearly nine years watching television, according to one survey.
On Judgment Day we would have to account for those
nine years. Do we use our time well? Do we
order our days well, or do we improvise?