Is Jesus truly far away from us now?

The Ascension of the Lord

Acts 1:1-11

In the first book, Theophilus, I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught until the day he was taken up, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them by many proofs after he had suffered, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. While meeting with them, he enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for "the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak; for John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit." When they had gathered together they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" He answered them, "It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority. 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. While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. They said, "Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven."

Ephesians 1:17-23

Brothers and sisters: May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a Spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of him. May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones, and what is the surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe, in accord with the exercise of his great might, which he worked in Christ, raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavens, far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion, and every name that is named not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things beneath his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.

Mark 16:15-20

Jesus said to his disciples: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned. These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages. They will pick up serpents with their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” So then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them, was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God. But they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.

One of today’s biggest tragedies is to turn Jesus into a vaguely remembered figure located/situated in a faraway distance. Our culture tends to read the ascension as “enlightenment” rather than a biblical reality, and it causes a huge misconception. Under the “enlightenment” explanation, ascension means that Jesus has gone up to heaven where it is far away and is irrelevant to our world. That is why atheists often read the story of the Ascension and say, “We are just dealing with wild fantasies here. What a myth!” So, on the Feast of the Ascension, what does Jesus teach in the Mark’s Gospel about the Ascension?

“Then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them, was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God” (Mk 16:19). Even though Jesus ascends into heaven to the dimension of God, He has not gone upwards and far away, rather he is going to heaven so that He can direct His operations more fully and completely on earth. The “heavenly throne” of Christ means that He is more present on earth. From this higher and more inclusive dimension, He can now reign over all the earth. He can be present, not only in Palestine for a period of time and in space, but He is also fully present to all of His creations forever! That is why it is erroneous to consider ascension as “Jesus has left” or “He is way up there in some place, and now we are on our own.” On the contrary, He is gone to reign and to continue the work of building up His kingdom here below. “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven” (Mt 6:10). He is gone more deeply and fully into our world, to a dimension that transcends ours, and at the same time, impinges deeply upon us. His own personal ministry is now happening in His mystical body of the Church in which He is directing. He intends to return in order to bring the full reconciliation of heaven and earth!

So, how do we respond to this beautiful and truthful reality? It is precisely when the angels, two men dressed in white garments, stand beside the disciples who are gazing up to the heaven and say, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky” (Acts 1.10)? Jesus always wants to encounter us in an intimate and personal way. He is coming to touch our hearts, and to breathe His life into our situations, difficulties, desires, and our life. Therefore, do not stare up to heaven and look towards a distant figure, rather cling to Him dearly and draw to Him closely. Then get to work, help to build up this new order of God so that the path of love, forgiveness, and non-violence can be fully restored. That I think is what the Feast of the Ascension is about.

This is an excerpt from Bishop Robert Barron’s homilies, including “THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN HEAVEN AND EARTH”, “SEATED AT THE RIGHT HAND OF THE FATHER”, and “FEAST OF THE ASCENSION”. For more information, please visit Word On Fire.

Posted: May 13, 2018

Ben Cheng


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