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  • Writer's pictureDr. Anthony Lilles

The Ascension - a sign of hope

Descending and Ascending are beautiful movements of the paschal mystery, the saving mystery by which all that is good, holy and true about our humanity is rescued by God and cherished by Him. To say that Jesus, Risen from the Dead, ascended into heaven is to profess that frail humanity not only has been recreated in Christ but through Him drawn up into the mystery of God. It is both the love and the vulnerability of our humanity that God has drawn into Himself, and in drawing this into his Heart, He has made it holy, once and for all. What is more, but ascending into heaven and presenting holy humanity before the Father, Jesus obtains for us the Gift of the Holy Spirit so that through Him, the Holy Spirit descends on humanity anew.

Jesus Christ, ascended into heaven, reveals God's astonishing delight in humanity. What causes the Creator to be captivated by his creatures? It is the most humble elements of our humanity that the Son of God raises up. In the mystery of the Ascension we see that humble human love must be counted as greatness of humanity. It is this love by which Jesus was obedient unto death. It is this love that God raised up with Christ. It is this God saved love that is stronger than death and greater than all the powers of this world. It is in love surrendered to God that we realize the greatness of our vocation, that we actually give real glory to God.

Love draws the Lord down into our lives: the more the heart boldly lifts up to the Lord, the more the Lord descends into its depths, the more such a creature is raised on high not despite its inadequacies, but through them. That is why the poor of spirit, the peacemakers, the merciful, and the sorrowing are so blessed.

It is in the effort to love, no matter how broken or inadequate, that we most reveal God to one another. To love is to give the gift of oneself to another, to be "for" another. The moment we try to give this gift, the moment we try to really love someone the Lord has entrusted to us, we soon discover all kinds of inadequacies and voids and weaknesses. We see in all of this that the love that ought to be in our hearts is not there. To live life to the full, we need something (and it is not just some thing but rather Someone) we do not fully have. This is a discovery of our spiritual poverty. To know such poverty is to begin to pray.

The truth is, left to ourselves, we do not have the capacity to love in the manner we know the one we love deserves. We constantly fall short of giving ourselves the way we want to give ourselves to one another. This is true even in the most sacred and intimate of natural relationships: husband and wife, parents and children, brothers and sisters. It is especially true in our relationship with God.

This is why it was so important that the Lord Jesus ascend to the right hand of the Father. The Father in gazing on his "Only Begotten Son" also gazes on the humanity the Son has united to Himself. In the face of the Son, Father sees only what is good, holy and true about each of us, especially in our weaknesses. He delights in what He sees. This is because all that is evil, inhumane, and ugly about humanity has been destroyed by Christ through his death on the Cross. All that is beautiful about humanity, fashioned and refashioned in the very image of the Most High, Jesus has rescued from the power of death. This He has taken with Him when He ascended before the Face of God.

A new humanity is revealed in Christ before the Face of God to the wonderment of all Creation. In Christ, the Father blesses humanity with every spiritual gift so that all of us might be raised up to dwell where Jesus dwells—in the heart of the Father. In ascending into heaven, it is the glorious beauty of what humanity is meant to manifest that He gives to the Father. This is what the Father sees in us—and this is why He hopes in us even more than we hope in Him.

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