Today is the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord. Let me ask an honest question: Who cares? or perhaps better put, what’s this got to do with you and me? After all, our life is one of bills, sick relatives, and homework, so what does Jesus’ return to the Father have to do with your life and mine? To add to this seemingly irrelevant feast day, many of us think of Catholicism solely in terms of morals and so to celebrate Jesus’ Ascending “beyond the clouds” isn’t really practical enough to help us avoid gossip at work, envy of my friends, or those late night web searches with our smart phones. And so we are left with a choice: Either the Church is out of touch with our lives, or, we modern Americans are missing out on something significant.
In Jesus’ Ascension, we celebrate Jesus taking our glorified humanity into the very life of God. This means that humanity, right now as we speak, is participating in the life of God. But in order for this to really resonate, we need to slow down and remember that the phrase, “the life of God, ” does not mean an ocean, and humanity is simply absorbed into divinity; nor is this “life of God” a bed of clouds with angels playing harps and we, like bubbles, just float around. To enter into “the life of God” means to enter His own “eternal exchange of love” (CCC 221). Jesus takes your human nature and mine into the very joy and love of the Trinity!
In order to better understand what the inner life of God is like, Scripture comes to our aid. In the Book of Revelation chapter 19, St. John sees into heaven and describes what he sees as a wedding feast. All the celebration, joy, communion, and desire of an earthly wedding reception is only a little glimpse of the infinite wedding feast of heaven. This infinite, ecstatic and union-filled event is what Jesus brings our humanity into, not as an on-looker, but as a participant. Perhaps we could say, Jesus brings humanity to share in the dance of the Trinity.
This is what the Apostles saw in the Ascension of Jesus. Not simply “Good for Jesus and now we have to figure life out.” Instead, they saw in Jesus returning in our human flesh to the Father a sign that our humanity, transformed in Christ, is capable and destined for divine life. This is why in the final line of the Gospel for today we hear that the Apostles “returned to Jerusalem with great joy and they were continually in the temple praising God.” Joy and praise can only erupt from a heart that sees something of value and worth. These simple men saw that through, with, and in Christ, the human heart’s desire for love and joy is not naive or irrational, but destined for fulfillment by the Trinity in heaven. This new vision and hope in God disposed the Apostles to receive nine days later the outpouring of divine life at Pentecost. And through that event the whole world was set on fire with the truth of humanity’s glory in Christ.
On this great feast day of the Church, we are invited to marvel at the work of the Lord on our behalf. To notice any stirrings in our own hearts for the endless love and joy of heaven, and to direct those desires to Jesus who alone can draw us to the place where there are “shouts of joy.” If you and I don’t care about this, what else is there?
Father Ryan Mann was ordained in May 2014. He is a parish priest at St. John Neumann parish in Strongsville, Ohio. He loves jazz clubs, comedy clubs, and movies. He enjoys great meals with good friends and being out on a boat in the summer time. Above all of these things, Fr. Ryan loves the eternal life and love of Jesus that is given as a taste through all these little pleasures. Fr. Ryan has attended Theology of the Body I and Theology of the Body II courses, as well as serving as a chaplain for courses with the Theology of the Body Institute.