The Difference the Ascension of the Lord Makes in Our Lives
by DEACON MICHAEL BICKERSTAFF
Years before that first Ascension Thursday, God entered into His own creation as the God-man, Jesus. He came as a humble babe, conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. His birth took place in a stable that housed livestock. Little is recorded of His early years; He was a thirty-year-old when He began His public ministry. During the next three years, He proclaimed the Kingdom, prepared His apostles, healed the sick, forgave contrite sinners and performed miraculous signs before thousands… He did the work of the Father.
Then it seemed the wheels came off… He was arrested, tortured, crucified and buried by the authorities, betrayed by one of His chosen apostles and abandoned by the rest. Only St. John watched as He died on the Cross. When the world could not seem darker, He rose from the dead on the third day and for the next forty days, He appeared before many witnesses and continued to teach and prepare His apostles. Doubt, confusion and pain gave way to hope and joy.
Lord, Please Stay… Just a Little While Longer
“But, can’t you stay Lord, just a while longer?” Imagine the apostles’ emotions… what a ride! In my prayers, I have often meditated on how they must have felt at the Crucifixion, contrasting the exhilaration experienced during the Lord’s public ministry to the anguish and uncertainty that followed His death. And I have learned from them the importance of relying upon the Blessed Mother for strength and consolation during times of trouble and doubt.
The apostles went from the mountaintop back to the depths of the valley, but now, following the Resurrection, they are back from the brink. All is well again. Yet, Jesus has told them, He must now return to Heaven. He will not be with them in the same way He was previously. I can sense the uncertainty they must have felt in the questions they asked, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). And in today’s Gospel, we are told, “…they worshiped, but they doubted.” (cf. Matthew 28:16-20)
Jesus had to return to the Father, but He promised them He would not leave them orphans, “And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you” (John 14:6-7).
This was really the culmination of His work of redemption on earth.