“Up, up and away”, “Would you like to fly on my beautiful, my beautiful balloon?” “Beam me up Scotty.” We all dream of being able to fly. Perhaps someday we will. Jesus did as He ascended into heaven in a human body.
Since we have known dogmatic truths all our lives we tend to take them for granted. At times we fail to appreciate the marvelous implications for salvation that the Ascension initiated. As in every event of surprise, the disciples were not prepared. Bewildered, they stood in shock, without words, not knowing how to react. Jesus raised His hands, gave them a blessing, He said, “I’ll see you later” and off he went. Wasn’t until weeks, months, years later that the disciples began to put the pieces together. Theologians have asserted that the disciples returned to the same place to see if Jesus had come back. Finally, the little light turned on that the Lord was not coming back soon. So, they got to work. Spreading the Gospel message was the prime objective. Yet, obstacles were present at every corner. Anyone who declared themselves to be a follower of Christ or dared to talk about Him was guilty of treason and liable to a sentence of death. An underground connection was established so that the authorities would not identify them. The Christians met in the catacombs—the cemeteries—a place most people avoided. There they celebrated the Lord’s Supper and shared stories with one another. The sign that they would use when they met on the streets was the Sign of the Cross—which non-Christians did not recognize. They made the Sign of the Cross and communicated where they were going to meet. A sign that we sometimes make without thinking, was an original tool that saved lives.
Obviously, there were no mediocre Christians. A Profession of Faith meant the possibility of martyrdom. Therefore, Christianity was not a weekend practice, but a life commitment. There were no churches. Church was not a building but where the believers gathered—where the Lord’s Supper was celebrated—where people loved each other. By the time someone was baptized, they were ready. The catechumen had proved trustworthy, courageous, and willing to die if necessary. Consequently, there was no time for rumors. No one cared what kind of clothing others were wearing because they were just happy to see them—that they hadn’t been killed. Persecution always strengthens any movement. That’s what Christianity is—a movement—the ongoing renewal for a fallen world.
If Jesus had not left, the movement would not have gotten started. After a good teacher has done his or her job, comes the time to allow the students to grow up. Jesus left so that we could grow up—mature in the Faith. He left clear instructions. The One Commandment of love is all that we need. Although the Bible is important, we stand for the Gospel. The Gospels are the direct words of Christ to His Church. He promised to be with us always until the end of time. Therefore, all the bad news, all the trials, every challenge that comes our way can be handled. Discouragement is not from God. Nor does God accuse us. God empowers us to preach His message of Good News. The Good News is that we are loved without conditions—a message not yet heard by countless of people, some who are Catholics. We waste much energy in blaming each other, in judging ourselves, in holding resentments. Notice that the Resurrection and the Ascension are intimately related to the forgiveness of sins. Once we repent new lift can begin. What happens in politics is not as important as what happens in families. Parents set the moral standards for their children—a responsibility that cannot be delegated, especially to the government. Powers and principalities all pass away. The Words of Jesus will continue to endure the test of time.
Jesus Christ ascended to heaven; yet, is here among us, particularly in the Blessed Sacrament. We delight that the Lord lives in our heart and inside every person.