Our Glory, Our Home

Today we celebrate the feast of the Ascension of the Lord. The Acts of the Apostles tell us that after his resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples, presenting himself alive to them by many proofs and giving them instructions for the last time. He stayed for forty days until he was taken up to heaven.

The ascension of Jesus marks the completion of his mission on earth to save humankind. This mission began with the incarnation when the Son of God was sent by Father and took on our humanity, becoming man like us. “And the Word was made flesh…” (Jn 1:14) He lived among us and announced the coming of the kingdom of God. Jesus’ saving mission reached its culmination in the paschal mysteries of his suffering, death, and resurrection. Having accomplished his mission, he returned to heaven and now sits at the right hand of the Father, occupying a position of supreme power and authority in heaven and on earth.

What is the significance of this feast? What has it to do with us? Everything! When Jesus came down to earth, he took on our humanity. After dying on the cross and rising from the dead, he returned to his rightful place of glory in heaven taking with him our humanity. By his ascension, Jesus, the God-man, has elevated our human dignity to share in God’s life and glory. Thus, his glory is now our glory, and his home our home.

We are reminded of this at Mass when the priest pours water into the wine and prays, “By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbles himself to share in our humanity.”

This union is actualized in baptism through the Holy Spirit who unites us to Jesus by incorporating us into his Body, the Church. As baptized, we form the Mystical Body of Christ, of which he is the head, and we are its members. We are thus called to be united with him here on earth, as well as in heaven. He has in fact reserved a place for each one of us there. “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places… And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.” (Jn 14:2-3)

The ascension of the Lord points to the final stage of discipleship. Jesus shows us the way to salvation by inviting us to be his disciples. “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. (Lk 9:23) As disciples, we follow Jesus all the way – to die with him on Calvary, to rise with him from the tomb, and to ascend with him in heaven.

For more than two years now, we have been learning how to become a synodal Church. We have become more aware that we are a community of God’s people journeying together (syn-hodos) towards the kingdom. Life is a journey, and as journeyers we realize that we are merely passing through. We do not belong to this world, and this is not our home. Our true home is the house of the Father, where Jesus has gone before us and awaits us.

Last week, I celebrated the fiesta Mass in the Parish of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage. In my homily I developed the theme of synodality and spoke of life as a sea voyage, an image I find more powerful and expressive than that of a journey by land. Like the sea, life is unstable and unpredictable. In fact, we cannot stand on it. It is fraught with danger and threat from storms and pirates. Yet sadly many have become so attached to this world and made it their home that when they are called to their true home, they find it hard to leave.

The sea voyage as an icon of our synodal journey is made richer by two interesting details. Sailing at sea helps us gain a better appreciation of the value of things, especially in moments of crisis. When the ship is in danger of sinking, all unnecessary cargoes are thrown out to save the one supreme value of life.

Another feature that makes the sea voyage a more fitting image of synodality is that all sojourners are in one boat. In our synodal journey we are all passengers in the barque of Peter, the Church. Herein lies the security of our journey. We will not sink, and we will reach home because Christ is in our boat even when at times, he may seem asleep.

One last thought. After Jesus ascends into heaven, the angels ask the apostles, “Why are you standing there looking at the sky?” They seem to tell the apostles to get to work after having just received instruction from Jesus to be “my witnesses in Jerusalem… and to the ends of the world.” True, Jesus awaits us in heaven. But in the meantime, he asks us to continue his mission of proclaiming the coming of the kingdom which starts already here. “For the kingdom of God is in your midst.” (Lk 17:21)

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