It’s interesting to compare different words used for Ascension. Analepsis the Greek word stresses that Jesus is taken up by God into heaven. The German word aufstieg means ascending and also reaching the next stage, so the departure of Jesus is the beginning of a new adventure for mankind. In Irish we say deascabhail a beautiful going. In Ugandan kulinya mu Ggulu means going to heaven just like the Polish word Wniebo wstapienie ‘heaven here I come!’ Jesus has gone to the place where everyone hopes to follow. He introduces us to an adventure that takes us beyond this world so we shout out ‘heaven here we come!’
In the Ascension Mass the Lord Jesus promises the apostles the Holy Spirit and commands them to bear witness to the Spirit by the way they live and by talking about their faith in Jesus who assures them, “I am with you always; yes, to the end of time”. Today’s Feast is a celebration of Jesus’ glory after his suffering and death and also our share in his glory. With the Holy Spirit we point to Jesus by our words and by our lives.
Think of today as a call to complete a task. Jesus has done everything for us but now we have to do our part. Leonardo da Vinci was an inimitable genius who often began a work of art and then called one of his talented students to complete the work with the advice, “What I have done enables you; let it inspire you.” Jesus our Master is personally the Good News from God. What he said and did and suffered has left us with the means to finish our own masterpiece, to go to the next stage. The Ascension reminds us he has gone before and he is still with us through his Spirit releasing a new energy upon the earth to help us participate in completing the divine work of art each of us is called to be.
It is as if Jesus passed on the baton of responsibility to each of us so that his saving work continues. He is still alive inviting us to be with him today. Who is best qualified to do the work of God, to assist Jesus, to be spiritual? The story is told that when the risen Jesus returned to heaven the Archangel Gabriel asked, “Well, now that you are back who will continue your work on earth?” Jesus said, “While I was on earth, I gathered a group of people around me who believed in me and loved me. They will continue to spread the Gospel and carry on the work of the Church.” Gabriel was perplexed. “You mean Peter who denied you and the rest who ran? You mean to tell us that you left them to carry on your work? What will you do if this plan doesn’t work?” Jesus said, “I have no other plan. But when I said Goodbye, I promised ‘God be with you’. I will be there too”.
You notice the notion of ‘no other plan’ ties in with a motto used by those who work with Pope Francis to care for our common home. They shout “we have no other planet” as they celebrate the fifth anniversary of the famous letter Laudato Si in which Pope Francis called us to respect our world and its climate, to ensure the fair distribution of its resources but above all to stand back, admire and praise God for this wonderful creation.
Covid has taught us that we are not in complete charge and possibly never will be. So we need each other on the journey if we are to live wisely, think deeply and love generously. And as Christians we have a vital announcement to give. There is another stage to the journey.
Jesus has gone before and we can accompany him. Here and now take care of each other! Remember that Jesus is content to depend on the efforts of his followers! You are those followers. God be with you each day of the journey and keep repeating, ‘Heaven here we come’!