Today’s scriptures reflect on the experience of the disciples following the Ascension; Saint Luke reports the Ascension of Jesus twice, once at the end of his Gospel (Luke 24:50-53) and again at the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 1:6-12), which we hear today. In the dioceses of Pennsylvania we celebrated the Ascension this past Thursday, whereas in many other parts of the U.S. it is celebrated today, on the seventh Sunday after Easter.
Whenever we mark the Ascension we recall that it reveals Christ’s return to glory with the Father. The Creed we pray together at mass each Sunday recounts our belief in this regard: “He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.” Christ’s heavenly glorification witnessed in the Ascension is the confirmation that through his earthly life and ministry he achieved the purpose for which he was sent, and it serves as well as an invitation for us to live with Christ in the present life, with its joys and sorrows, so that we may one day come to live with him in eternal life, sharing in his glory.
Although he lived in the time before the life and ministry of Jesus, and thus only understood the glory of the Messiah by way of anticipation, we hear the Psalmist rejoice in the glory of the Lord already in this life: “One thing I ask of the Lord; this I seek: To dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,” and look ahead to the life to come: “I believe that I shall see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living” (Ps 27:4, 13). Living in the time of the fullness of God’s revelation in Christ our joy should exceed that of the Psalmist as we find strength and deep inner peace in the promise of the glory to come.
As we prepare to launch forth into the long season of the Church year following Eastertide the Church exhorts us to stand firm through the difficulties of our everyday lives, even enduring unmerited hardships with equanimity, so that we might eventually participate in the risen and ascended Lord’s glory: “Rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly” (1 Pet 4:13).
The combination of the glory we will one day share with Christ and the obstacles which stand on our path toward it are taken up in Jesus’ words from today’s Gospel reading. This passage is drawn from a long discourse the Lord delivered to his Apostles at the Last Supper, and it in fact forms part of the conclusion of that discourse—his final words to his disciples before the events of his passion and death.
In this prayer-like passage Jesus asks that God the Father glorify Jesus just as Jesus himself gave glory to the Father during his earthly life and ministry. Jesus then initiates the apostles, and through them, all his followers, into this movement of glory, saying: “Give glory to your son, so that your son may glorify you, just as you gave him authority over all people, so that he may give eternal life to all you gave him” (John 17:1-2). As we remember the Ascension of the Lord into glory let it be our prayer that we may one day come to share in it by virtue of our perseverance with him in the present life.
Father Edward Mazich, O.S.B.