Ascension of Our Lord
For those whose first love is Jesus, the feast of the Ascension is cause for celebration. It means that the one we love above all others, the very foundation and fulcrum of our existence, is henceforth glorified at the right hand of the Father, above all creatures, never more to suffer, never more to die. Jesu, Amor noster. Jesus, our love has received the eternal reward for His sacrificial death, and that thought is one that gives us reason to exult; it establishes our hearts in great peace, never more to be perturbed.
But Jesus, our Love, is also the object of our desire. Jesu, Nostrum Desiderium. We long for His return, for the angel told us that He will come, the same way He went, in glory and majesty. Our love for Him today moves us to long for His return tomorrow, and our Christian existence is in constant tension between those two poles, ever since the Son of God rose to the heights of Heaven.
The Epistle to the Hebrews tells us that Our Lord has penetrated behind the veil: This we have as an anchor of the soul, sure and firm, which reaches into the interior behind the veil, where Jesus has entered on our behalf as forerunner, becoming high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek (Heb 6:19-20). It is an anchor that is thrown up into Heaven, and which provides us with the firm certitude that He is the one who gives that reliable stability to our lives. He holds us strong from on high, lest we fall or turn back. Let us keep our eyes fixed on Him without fail.
From that throne on high, Our Blessed Lord draws all men to Himself, as He Himself said He would: When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men to myself (Jn 12:32). At the same time, He also tells us: No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him (Jn 6:44). And so we may ask: why doesn’t the Father draw all? Quite simply, the Father draws those who let themselves be drawn. He loves those who let themselves be loved. God is almighty, but there is one thing He Himself refuses to do, and that is to force someone’s heart. The door to the heart is opened only from the inside. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me (Ap 3:20). As St Augustine said, my love is my weight, amor meus, pondus meum. If I love Jesus, I am drawn to Him. If I open my heart to Him, the Father draws me into His Heart.
Just before rising to Heaven, Our Lord told the apostles: You will be my witnesses (Act 1:8), here and to the ends of the earth. There is no part of the earth in which you will not take the witness to my life and love. I in turn will accompany you with signs, with wonderful miracles of grace, that will give proof of the divinity of your mission. Those miracles have never been lacking in the Church, from the very beginning, as is seen in the Acts of the Apostles, and all the way into the 21st century, as can be seen in the lives of the saints that continue to be canonised by the Church. Those miracles are necessary to confirm the divine mission of the Church, but there are also many other signs of grace that are much more frequent, and they point to the divinity of the Church and her mission. These are the fruits of ordinary sanctity which can be seen in the lives of the faithful, in so many priests and nuns who dedicate their lives to the Gospel and to souls, in the lives of so many mothers and fathers who accept all the children God sends them, and rear them in the fear of the Lord and the respect for His holy law.
This witness is so important in a world which St Teresa of Avila had already said was going up in flames. Indeed, the world is being reduced to ashes as we speak. It is so cold that it is burning. Intense cold produces severe burns. Today the world is ice cold, hearts are frigid, egotism reigns supreme, faith perishes, and all that we used to hold as sacred is going up in flames. What the world needs is to approach the real fire of the Heart of Jesus, the fornax ardens caritatis, the burning furnace of charity, in order to receive the calor Verbi, the heat of the Divine Word.
As the apostles stood there ecstatic as Our Lord disappeared in the clouds, the angel jolted them out of their wonderment: Men of Galilee, why do you stand there looking up to Heaven? Go, preach the word, touch hearts, you are the light of the world. But to us today, the same angel might have to say: what are you doing looking down at the earth, at yourselves? You were not made for the earth, but for Heaven. Lift up your eyes to your king, to your God, follow Him beyond the clouds, beyond the veil. Turn to Him and let Him give you that reconciliation, that peace and stability that only He can give. Then you will be able to go and take the saving truth to others. It’s only once you learn to leave aside your own interests and serve others that all the rest falls into place. Let us ask the Mother of the King, Our Lady Queen of Heaven, to help us. Following her example and supported by her prayers, we cannot go astray.