Jesus Prepares a Place for Us
User’s Guide to Sunday: The Ascension of the Lord
Sunday, May 29, is the Ascension of the Lord (Boston; Hartford, Connecticut; New York; Newark, New Jersey; Philadelphia; and the state of Nebraska’s dioceses celebrate Ascension Thursday three days earlier). Mass readings: Acts 1:1-11; Psalm 47:2-3, 6-7, 8-9; Ephesians 1:17-23 or Hebrews 9:24-28; 10:19-23; Luke 24:46-53.
The readings today describe a wondrous event: The Lord, by his own power, ascends to heaven. In so doing, he opens a path for us, too. The gates of paradise swing open again: “Lift up your heads, O gates! and be lifted up, O ancient doors! that the King of glory may come in” (Psalm 24:7). In Christ, man returns to God. “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man” (John 1:51).
The Lord did not enter heaven alone. Consider this remarkable text, which affirms that: When he ascended on high, he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men. In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? (Ephesians 4:8ff). After his death, he descended to Sheol, awakened the dead, and preached the Gospel to them (1 Peter 4:6). Now, comes the moment to ascend with Jesus as a “host” of former captives are set free. Behold the great procession that enters with Christ through the now-opened gates of heaven: Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Rachel, Judith, Deborah, David, Samuel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Malachi, John the Baptist … and, one day, you!
Jesus does not return to heaven in order to abandon us. He goes to procure some very important things for us. Consider four of them:
Holy Ghost power: Jesus teaches very clearly that he is ascending in order to send us the Holy Spirit: “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7ff). “He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:25ff).
Harvest: Jesus says, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me” (John 12:32). So, from his place in glory, Christ is drawing all people to himself. He is also bestowing grace on us, from his Father’s right hand, to be his co-workers in the harvest.
Help: At the Father’s right hand, Jesus intercedes for us. Scripture says, “Consequently he is able, for all time, to save those who draw near to God through him, since he lives always to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25). The Lord links his ascension to an unleashing of special power: “Amen, amen, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father” (John 14:12).
Habitation: Simply put, Jesus indicates that in going to heaven he is preparing a place for us: “In my Father’s house are many mansions: If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:2ff).
Happy Solemnity of the Ascension of Our Lord! May we merit, by his grace, to attain joys unspeakable and glories untold!