HOMILY FOR THE SOLEMNITY OF ASCENSION OF THE LORD.
THEME: “Christ Ascends into Heaven”
BY: Fr. Chibuike Uwakwe
The solemnity of the Ascension of our Lord into heaven has always been observed as a holy day of obligation. One may begin to wonder why the Church lays so much emphasis on the Ascension of Christ since he has died and conquered death with his resurrection. Has it much significance for us? Indeed the ascension of Christ gives great value to our Christian faith. It is a celebration of hope not just for the first apostles but for the entire Church. It gives us the hope that Christ has not only conquered death but has also opened the gates of heaven for us so that being the first born from the dead all those who die in him will gain direct entrance into heaven.
One also wonders why Christ had to ascend into heaven majestically since he did not descend from heaven majestically. His physical ascension was to prove the fact that his glorified body was actually taken up to heaven with the fullness of his humanity. Besides, since his physical presence among us was limited to space and time, his ascension became a manifestation of his spiritual presence among us which cuts across the boundaries of space and time.
That is why today, Christ is still present in the Church making his presence felt in many places and ways at the same time. This fulfills his promise in Mathew 28:20 to be with us till the end of time. So each time we gather to celebrate the Word and the Sacraments especially the Eucharist, we encounter Christ in a more intimate way because he is spiritually present in our midst.
At Christ’s ascension he assumes the role of a mediator, a facilitator and during the end of time, becomes a judge. He is sitting at the right hand of God to intercede for those he has redeemed and that is why the Father grants whatever that is asked in his name. As a facilitator, he has gone to make the promise of the Father come true – the descent of the Holy Spirit. He has also gone to prepare a place for us in the “many mansion in his Father’s house” (cf. Jn 14:3) so that where he is we may be. As a judge, he sits at the throne ready to judge us at the end of our lives when he will come again. The angels emphasized this point in the first reading (Acts 1:1-11) when they told the apostles that Jesus will come back in the same way as they have seen him go. This second coming is what we regard as the parousia when he will come in glory to judge the living and the dead.
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Beloved brethren, today we are reminded that Christ has not just gone back to heaven but has gone to prepare rooms for us in heaven. He will certainly return to judge all creation in relation to the tasks he entrusted to us and if we are qualified, we shall ascend with him where we shall reign with him in heaven. To make all these possible, Jesus in the Gospel reading (Luke 24:46-53) promises us the Holy Spirit which is the promise of the Father and who will clothe us with power. The Holy Spirit will reveal hidden things to us and through the power of this Spirit we will be enabled to do the will of God.
Therefore, today’s celebration is meant to take our focus away from the things of this world to the things of God above. It should make us reflect on our destination after death. It should also stimulate our curiosity for the things of heaven and make us strive to ascend into heaven on the last day like our master did. To join him, we have to remain his witnesses. Our witnessing involves two obligations: witnessing what God has done for us in Christ Jesus by appropriating the redemption Christ brought and witnessing to this Good News of Christ Jesus to our fellow men in words and deeds just as the disciples did. It is only when we do this that we can be confident to enter into the sanctuary as the second reading (Heb. 9:24-28; 10:19-23) assures us. God loves you.
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