Tomorrow is a day of celebration for our community. It is our annual feast day - the Solemnity of the Ascension, the feast of hope. It is a holy day of obligation which means as Catholics we are required to attend Mass on Ascension Thursday. Unlike Christmas or Easter, how come the Ascension is such a big deal? Because the event is part of the Paschal Mystery - the death, Resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus into Heaven, followed by Pentecost. All four, taken together, are the events of our Redemption, all planned by our Merciful God.
Jesus came into the world through the Incarnation. His conception as a human being in His mother's womb and his birth in Bethlehem were momentous events in our salvation. He lived for 33 years on earth, as both God and man. Isn't it appropriate then, that we not only celebrate his coming among us, but we also celebrate his return to the Father. Here on earth, he taught us the Good News, he healed, he brought some back to life. Now that he sits at the right hand of the Father, he prays for us and is preparing a place for us to celebrate with him in eternal life.
But you know, even though he has returned in his holy humanity to Heaven, from where he came, he has never left us! Saint Jose Maria Escriva says that "...in an excess of love, he has remained with us, even when he has gone away. He has gone to Heaven and, at the same time, he gives himself to us as our nourishment in the sacred host."
St. Leo the Great has written: "(the apostles) benefitted so greatly from the Ascension of our Lord that all that beforehand had caused them fear now caused them joy. From that moment on, their souls were fixed in contemplation on the divinity seated at the right hand of the Father; the very vision of his body was no obstacle to their believing with their minds illumined by faith that Christ had not separated himself from His Father when he descended, and had not separated himself from his disciples when he ascended."
What does all of this mean for us? Jesus has never left us, he is sitting beside the Father, interceding for us, he expects us to be with him forever and he wants to give us the grace to live our lives in such a way that we make it to Heaven. On our journey home he nourishes us with his body and blood. And he has sent us his Holy Spirit to inspire, to lead and guide us there. In 10 days we celebrate the solemnity of Pentecost. There is no end to our causes for celebration!