Psalm 47:2-3, 6-7, 8-9
The mystery of Christ’s Ascension into Heaven celebrates the mystery of his royal priesthood. He is the Lord who, in his humanity, reigns at the right hand of the Father. He is the high-priest of the New Covenant who intercedes for us before the Father, the mediator who assures us of the permanent outpouring of the Holy Spirit and gives us the hope of one day reaching the heavenly place he has prepared for us (Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 132).
Christ’s kingship is mentioned in the first reading. Jesus, we are told, spoke about the Kingdom of God during the forty days between his Resurrection from the dead and his Ascension into heaven. As they gather around Jesus before his Ascension, the disciples are eager to know when the kingdom of Israel would be restored. The disciples could be referring to Jesus’ promise in Luke 22:30 that says that they will sit on thrones. In response to their question, Jesus “discourages speculation about timing (v. 7), but does describe the means by which the kingdom will be restored, namely, through the Spirit-inspired witness of the apostles throughout the earth (v. 8)” (S. Hahn, “Christ, Kingdom and Creation in Luke-Acts”, 185). In fact, the Acts of the Apostles tells how the kingdom spreads from Jerusalem to Judea, to Samaria and to the ends of the earth.
Christ’s elevation to the right hand of the Father is linked especially to the descent of the Holy Spirit. Only through the Ascension does Christ receive the Holy Spirit from the Father to pour it out on the Apostles as he had promised. The Apostles do not yet understand the full meaning of the Kingdom, and only through the gift of the Holy Spirit do the Apostles definitively became aware of the vision of the kingdom that Christ announced from the beginning. The Holy Spirit will correct any nationalistic, earthly views of the kingdom and lift their eyes toward the universal, heavenly Kingdom of God. At Pentecost the Apostles become witnesses to the kingdom that will have no end (see Pope Saint John Paul II, 12 April 1989).
Jesus reigns now in heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. This action signifies the inauguration of his kingdom, the fulfillment of the prophet Daniel’s vision concerning the Son of Man: “To him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14) (see CCC, 664).
The Psalm proclaims that today Jesus, true God and true man, “mounts his throne amid shouts of joy”, he “reigns over the nations” and “sits upon his holy throne. His Ascension marks the entry of his humanity into divine glory. Jesus departed from this world, not to leave us orphans, but to open up the way to the Father’s house for us.
Christ is not only our King, but also our High-priest and the Mediator of the New Covenant in which we share. Today he enters “not into a sanctuary made by human hands… but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf” (Hebrews 9:24). He enters the heavenly sanctuary not with the blood of animals, but with his own blood. In heaven, Christ permanently exercises his priesthood, interceding for those who draw near to God through him (see CCC, 662).
Before leaving to prepare a place for us in his Father’s house, Jesus sends out his disciples to all nations. They will be his witnesses and will bring men and women, through the Sacrament of Baptism, into communion with God and into his Kingdom. Jesus goes away, yet remains with us in the Eucharist and in the Church. This is why he can console his disciples, saying to them and to us: “I am with you always”. The disciples, then, are not saddened by Jesus’ Ascension, rather they return to Jerusalem with great joy (Luke 24:52). They rejoice because Jesus now reigns in heaven and the effects of his reign – righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17) – are manifested in our lives.
Readers may contact Father Jason Mitchell at email@example.com.