REFLECTION FOR THE FEAST OF ASCENSION OF THE LORD
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 all these years? Of course, he would be the oldest human living because he died once and would never have to die again. St. Paul tells us that he died once to sin (Romans 6:10).
Is the ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ important? It is not just important; it is a “conditio sine qua non!” That is a Latin phrase that means a condition without which another thing cannot happen. In a few words, without the ascension, the redemptive work would have been incomplete, and humanity would still be in limbo.
We are celebrating the ascension of our Lord Jesus, which is a very central and significant event in the calendar of our redemption. The narrative of the ascension, according to Luke (Acts 1:1-11), captured the moment Jesus ascended to heaven in real-time while his disciples watched in utter amazement.
The event happened forty days after the resurrection, which was preceded by the Lord’s passion and death on the cross. Interestingly, Luke presented his very last instructions that sustain the importance of the ascension:
“Do not depart from Jerusalem but wait for the promise of the Father. In a few days, you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit”. (Acts 1:4-5).
“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.” (Acts 1:8).
Recall that Jesus, our Lord made it clear earlier that he would ascend to heaven before it happened that day at Mount Olives. In John (16:28), Jesus said, “I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.” On the resurrection day, he said to the zealous Mary Magdalene, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father” (John 20:17a).
The Grounds of the Ascension of the Lord
The Ascension is a Necessary Bridge.
The primary function of a bridge is to connect two separate grounds that lie parallel to each other; hence a bridge serves as a meeting point that ensures progress. As a necessary bridge, the ascension of the Lord reconnected heaven and earth.
Recall that paradise was shut after the sin of Adam and Eve. With the ascension, the heaven gateway was reopened. Our Lord Jesus confirmed this when he said (John 3:13), “No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.”
The Ascension Fulfils the Promise of Another Advocate
On the strength of the ascension, the promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit became a reality. Recall that Jesus said, “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). So, the ascension is a precondition for the coming of the Holy Spirit of the day of Pentecost. Recall that He comes to abide with us a permanent resident (John 14:16).
The Ascension Assures the Second Coming of Christ
In the account of the ascension from the Acts of the Apostles, Luke narrated how the disciples were looking up to heaven as Jesus Christ mounted in their sight, and suddenly two men (angels) dressed in white showed up and 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”.
Two things the two men (angels) in while achieved was to confirm to them that what they saw was Jesus ascending to heaven, in case there were doubts The second was to let them know that there will be a Second Coming of the Lord as he said in the Gospel of John (14:1-2) where he promised to come and take them to the place prepared.
The Ascension Births the Church
The Church, which is the assembly of God’s people, is a remote product of the ascension. Recall that the disciples had to gather in one place after the ascension following the instruction of the Lord until they received the power from on high.
That gathering was an important precondition for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The narrative of Pentecost day tells us that “they were gathered together in one place” (Acts 2:1) before the Holy Spirit came down on them in the similitude of fire.
Moving Forwards: Activating an Ascension Mindset
Every action in life is a product of a mindset. The ascension mindset entails thinking in the upward direction in terms of success, achievement, and excellence. Your mindset determines the miles you cover in life.
From our reflection thus far, we understand that our Lord Jesus Christ had the ascension mindset even before it happened. In fact, he commanded it into existence. For instance, he says, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” (John 20:17b)
Your mindset has much to do with how you succeed or fail in life. St. Paul challenged the Colossians that as resurrected people, they should set their minds on the things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. (Col.3:1). To the Romans, he says, “Be transformed by the renewal of your minds to do what is the will of God; what is good, acceptable, and perfect (Romans 12:2)
As members of the body of Christ, we are all beneficiaries of the Lord’s ascension. We cannot have an ascended Lord while living a descended life. Therefore, as partakers of the ascension menu, we are invited to ascend from failure to favor, from setbacks to success. We need to rise from shame to fame and from fear to faith. This is the day and hour. You only need to set your mind to it with total dependence on God, and you shall succeed.
God bless you, and may you also ascend!