Reflection for Ascension Thursday (Sunday)
Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.
Did you know that if Jesus did not physically ascend to heaven after the resurrection, he would still be alive and moving around the earth for these past two thousand years? Jesus died once and is never to die again (Romans 6:10). In the Book of Revelation (1:18), the Lord himself declared: “I am the Living One. I was dead. But now look! I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys to Death and Hell”.
Though it might sound exciting to still have our Lord Jesus Christ around our neighborhood thousands of years after the resurrection, his physical presence would potentially challenge and dispute some of the major prophecies and promises in the scriptures concerning him.
We could recall that our Lord Jesus Christ addressing Mary Magdalene shortly after his ascension, said: “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” (John 20:17).
Why Jesus needed to Ascend to Heaven
Our Lord Jesus Christ started talking about the next important event after the resurrection: the ascension. Furthermore, after the ascension, Jesus reaffirmed the next important event, namely: the coming of the Holy Spirit: “I am going to send you what my Father has promised, but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49).
We can see from the preceding references that the ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ is as important and indispensable as the other events in the calendar of his salvific mission on earth: the incarnation, passion and death, resurrection, and the coming of the Holy Spirit, and not excluding the anticipation of the Second Coming (1 Thess. 4:16-17).
Without the ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ to heaven, the coming of the Holy Spirit would have been on hold. In one of the final instructions to his disciples, Jesus said: Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16:7).
Why should we care about the Ascension of the Lord?
The question could be another way of exploring the importance of the Lord’s ascension in our lives. Can you imagine a world where nothing ascends, but everything goes down? That would be absurd. So, even in the structuring of the cosmos, the divine intelligence factored in the possibilities of ascension.
The spiritual importance of the ascension is that as co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17), we have been given the divine advantage to ascend. So, we cannot have an ascended Lord and remain descended in various areas of life.
The ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ indicates the fulfillment of his earthly mission. He accomplished his earthly assignment and did everything well (Mark 7:37). The ascension serves as an alert, showing that the earthly mission of the Lord is completed and that the way is open for the Holy Spirit to come.
For us, the ascension of the Lord is a signal to ascend the upper room and tarry with prayer until we receive the power from on high when the Holy Spirit comes on the day of Pentecost.
The ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ invites us to shift our attention from the distractions of this world and focus our attention on the things above where our ascended Lord sits at the right hand of the Father (Colossians 3:1-2).
The ascension further tells us that there is a place for us after our earthly journey, as St. Paul would assure us that when our earthly tent is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by humans hands (2 Cor. 5:1). So, that ascension solidifies the words of Jesus that there are many rooms in his Father’s house and that he is going to prepare a place for us (John 14:2-3).
Moving Forward: You can also ascend!
Christianity is a product of the Lord’s ascension. Attentive to this reality, our lives as Christians should be an ascension project. Ascension tells each of us subjectively that nothing is impossible in the divine lexicon.
Though we might go through tough times, there may be bruises and even a casting down, but the ascension of the Lord assures us that blessings shall come from our bruises and a lifting shall come from our casting down.
Like the resurrection, the ascension amplifies the victory over the limitations of death and the grave (I Cor. 15:54-55). So, we make bold to declare that through the ascension power of the Lord, we shall rise, increase, and bloom, and nothing else can stop us. We are also assured that the promise of the Father will come to us soon!
God bless you, and may you also ascend!