Continuing his catechesis on the Creed, Pope Francis focused on the significance of Christ’s Ascension into heaven during his weekly General Audience in St. Peter’s Square. An estimated 50,000 faithful were present at the audience according the Holy See Press Office.
“Jesus’ earthly life culminated with the event of the Ascension, namely, when He passed from this world to the Father and was raised to his right hand. What is the meaning of this event? What are its consequences for our life? What does it mean to contemplate Jesus seated at the right hand of the Father?” the Pope asked.
Beginning from the gospel of Luke, which speaks of Christ who “ascends” to the Holy City, Pope Francis said that while Jesus sees that his goal is Heaven, he ultimately knows that it will ultimately take him to the Cross, which the Pope described as “obedience to the divine plan of love for humanity.”
“In our Christian life, we must also have very clear that to enter into the glory of God exacts daily fidelity to His will, even when it requires sacrifice, when it requires at times that we change our plans,” the Holy Father said. “Jesus’ Ascension took place concretely on the Mount of Olives, close to the place where he withdrew in prayer before the Passion to remain in profound union with the Father: once again we see that prayer gives us the grace to live faithful to God’s plan.”
Regarding Luke’s account of Christ’s Ascension into heaven, the Pope focused on Jesus’ gesture of blessing, a sign of Him being the “one and eternal priest” who intercedes to God in our favor.
“When one is called by a judge or is called to trial,” the Pope said, “the first thing he does is look for an advocate to defend him. We have One who always defends us. He defends us from the insidiousness of the Devil, He defends us from ourselves, from our sins!”
The Pope went on to call the faithful to never forget that Christ is our advocate and that we must also never be afraid to ask his forgiveness, blessing and mercy.
The Joy of Christ’s Presence
Another element of Jesus’ Ascension that the Holy Father recalled was the joy felt by the Apostles after Christ went to heaven. Despite the normal emotion of sadness when separated by relatives and loved ones, the Holy Father noted the profound joy described in Luke’s account.
“How is this possible?” the Pope asked. “Precisely because, with the look of faith, they understood that, although removed from their eyes, Jesus always stays with them, He does not abandon them and, in the glory of the Father, He sustains them, guides them and intercedes for them.”
Pope Francis exhorted the crowd present to heed the invitation of the two angels who appeared to the apostles after the Ascension who told them “not to remain standing looking into heaven, but to nourish their life and there witness of the certainty that Jesus will return in the same way as they saw him go into heaven.”
“It is, in fact, the invitation to begin from the contemplation of the Lordship of Christ, to have from Him the strength to bring the Gospel and witness to it in everyday life: to contemplate and to act, to pray and to work, Saint Benedict teaches, both are necessary in our life of Christians,” the Pope said.
The Ascension, he concluded, is not an indication of Christ’s absence but on the contrary, it is that Christ is “alive and in our midst in a new way.”
“We are never alone in our life: the crucified and risen Lord guides us; with us there are so many brothers and sisters that in silence and hidden, in their family and working life, in their problems and difficulties, in their joys and hopes, live the faith daily and bring to the world the dominion of the love of God, in Christ Jesus risen, ascended to Heaven, an advocate for us,” Pope Francis said.