The Ascension of the Lord is the great feast we celebrate to mark the time when, forty days after his Resurrection, Jesus ascended to Heaven. Yet, surely the Disciples must have felt rather heavy-hearted as they left the place from where Jesus had ascended. They had been with him for three amazing, often bewildering and apparently inexplicable years. Yet, as Pope St Leo the Great wrote, the Disciples were not sad. They went away filled with joy because they had now understood that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead and that, therefore, death is not the end. They were confident that they would see him again and that he would send then an Advocate – the Holy Spirt, who would strengthen them during their remaining time on earth.
By his Ascension, Jesus has gone to sit at the right hand of the Father. In ancient times “sitting at the right hand” of the ruler was the most powerful position anyone could achieve. It was like being the Prime Minister. This, therefore, is a message that Jesus always pleads for us with His Father. He is always on our side.
We know that Jesus will come back at the end of time. That “coming back” will put right all that is wrong. The world, restored and renewed, will be returned in its perfected state to the Father, but, meanwhile, we have received the gift of the Holy Spirit which empowers us and gives us hope in difficult times. It also gives us a sense of proportion when things seem good – it all comes from God and we take nothing for granted.
If we have received the Holy Spirit we are empowered to live in charity with one another, day in, day out. As we hear in the second reading this Sunday: “God is love and anyone who lives in love lives in God, and God lives in him”. Thus, as one of the Prefaces of the Ascension says: “We, His members, might be confident of following where He, our Head and Founder, has gone before.”