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Sunday, June 5, 2011

Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord

Taken from the Blog "Echoes for Rome" by Fr Derek Anderson, SOLT.

Click Here for the Mass Readings for the Solemnity of the Ascension - June 5, 2011 (Year A):

"'But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.' When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight." (Acts 1:8-9)

Photo of "Christ Ascending on High"
courtesy of
 Dcn. Lawrence Lew, O.P.
This Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord into Heaven.  As we hear in the first reading, Jesus appeared to the Apostles over a period of 40 days after rising from the dead.  After 40 days of proving Himself to be truly alive, He ascends into Heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father, "far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion...."  The biblical imagery of being seated "at the right hand of the Father" is actually quite meaningful as it signifies both the honor and glory of Christ's divinity, and the inauguration of His messianic kingdom.  But the Ascension includes a unique dimension to Jesus' return to the Father: Jesus enters into the glory of Heaven in our humanity - a risen and now exalted humanity.

Much attention is given to the human body today - most notably in the world of advertising.  Unfortunately, the idea of portraying the deeper meaning and significance of the human body as an integral part and expression of the human person is all too absent in marketing plans.  This is of course a symptom of a wider epidemic where the body is commonly viewed as an "accessory" to the human person.  An accessory can be used (or abused) on a whim, and without much impact on the one using it.  For example, I can choose to wear a watch and take care of it, or I can treat it poorly and abuse it, or even throw it away, but whatever I choose to do with my watch my life isn't really affected.  Human experience teaches us, however, that the human body is not an accessory.

What we do with our bodies can have a lasting impact on who we become deep within, and can positively or negatively affect our ability to relate to others.  If you have any doubt about this just sit down and listen to the struggles recovering drug, alcohol, or sex addicts have to face within themselves, and with their family and friends.  How we use our bodies does matter because our choices affect us, those around us, and our relationship with God.  Even our way of speaking reflects the intimate unity between our bodies and who we are as a human person.  As someone once pointed out, "if you fall out of a boat you don't say 'oh, my body just fell out of the boat', but rather 'I fell out of the boat'."  The human body is not a supplemental dimension to the human person, rather, through the body we express who we are within.  In other words, the body is an expression of the human person, not a impersonal accessory.

When we understand the intrinsic unity of our humanity and it's inherent dignity, the real significance and beauty of the Lord's Ascension into heaven becomes even more evident.  Jesus ascends to the Father in our humanity - a humanity glorified in the resurrection and now exalted in the ascension!  But while on earth, Jesus used His humanity to reveal the fullness of the Father's love and salvific plan for us - above all through His Incarnation, suffering, and death.  Jesus placed His humanity at the service of the Father's plan, and sacrificed Himself for our salvation and glorification.  The Ascension therefore confirms that the path of true glory for humanity is to be found in a genuine love for God and neighbor - a love that "takes on flesh" and becomes visible in our actions.

May we always remember that the glory, honor, and respect we all desire can only be found in God.  And may we abandon all efforts to garner glory for ourselves through a selfish use of our bodies, and seek instead to use our humanity to reflect the glory of God shining forth in the humanity of Christ!  God bless you!