Ascension of Our Lord: May 5, 2016
Delivered by Most Reverend Roger LaRade, O.F.A.
Beloved Disciple Eucharistic Catholic Church, Toronto
© 2016 Roger LaRade
Acts 1: 1-11; Mark 16: 14-20Partakers of DivinityWe have now extinguished the light of the Paschal Candle, a light lit this past Easter Vigil to symbolize the risen Christ, the true Light of the world. After the gospel reading of the Ascension, the light is put out to show that Christ has now ascended into heaven. This does not signify that Christ has left us completely. It does signify that he has left us in a different relationship, Him to us, and we to Him.
During these past Sundays of the Easter Season, the Church has taken us back to the Last Supper, giving us a chance to dig deeper into its meaning, seeing it with post-Resurrection eyes. We are witnesses to what is called the Final Discourse of Jesus to His disciples, his instructions to them.
This is Jesus’ testament to His Apostles, and to us. And, it is filled with beautiful expressions of God’s enduring and infinite love for us. Among other promises, Christ says, "I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you” (Jn. 14:17-19). He promises never to abandon His chosen followers. The crucifixion will come, the darkness, the suffering, the persecution, the apparent failure and defeat. But through it all, the Apostles can cling with firm faith to this promise: I will not leave you orphans; I will never abandon you.
With our post-Resurrection Faith, we know Christ to be present with us at every moment, felt or unfelt. We know, indeed, that Christ comes back down from heaven, if you will, at every Mass, bodily present among us and to us. And He remains present to us in the Blessed Sacrament.
And so today, as we celebrate the Ascension of Christ, as we extinguish the light of the Paschal Candle, Christ does not leave us orphans; Christ does not abandon us; we do not extinguish the flame of His presence among us.
But this Ascension of Christ is necessary to the unfolding of God’s relationship with us, or rather, to the restoration of our relationship with God. Without it, the mission of Jesus as Redeemer would be incomplete.
It is through His Ascension that Christ returns to His pre-human existence, that is as the Word, the Second Person of the Trinity. Yet, he returns changed, different from the pre-incarnate Word. When Christ ascends to the right hand of the Father it is in both His human and divine natures that He ascends. And so, humanity is brought into Divinity.
Pope St. Leo I in his sermon on the Ascension expresses this beautifully. He writes:
human nature was lifted up and exalted above the dignity of all heavenly creatures; passing above the hierarchies of Angels, elevated above the heights of Archangels; not suffering any limit of delay in its ascent through the heavenly heights till, having received a seat by the eternal Father, it was joined to the glory of His throne to whose nature it was united in the Word. (Divine Office, Lesson V for the Ascension of Our Lord)
And so, he continues, stating that:
the ascension of Christ is also our exaltation…the Son of God has made (His followers) one Body with Himself and has placed them at the right hand of the Father, with whom He lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, forever.
This is what we celebrate today. It is the reason why the Apostles are not saddened by Christ’s going away, by His Ascension, and why we should not be saddened by the extinguishing of the Paschal Candle. That which we have been celebrating these past forty days since the Easter Vigil, that is, our Redemption – our being brought back into union with God –is this day completed. Indeed, the mysteries we celebrate – Christ’s Death, His Resurrection, His Ascension – are all one; they are all of one movement, of one piece. They form the unity of God’s Salvific promise to us through Christ.
As followers of Christ, as those who have been baptized and those who believe, we are promised a share in Christ’s Divinity; we are made partakers in Divinity. In the Mass, as the priest mingles the water and wine at the Offertory, the prayer said is: “grant that by the Mystery of this water and wine, we may be made partakers of His divine nature, who vouchsafed to be made partaker of our human nature.” The Ascension of Christ is the promise and seal of the hope expressed in this prayer.
Its full realization will come at the Second Coming of Christ. And so, with the Apsotles, we too are told: And so, with the Apostles, we too are told: “Ye men of Galilee, why wonder you, looking up to Heaven? Alleluia. He shall so come as you have seen Him going up into Heaven” (Acts. 1: 11).
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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