Relevance of the Ascension of the Lord

Photography © by Andy Coan

Photography © by Andy Coan

The celebration of the Ascension used to leave me a bit flat.  It was clear what Good Friday did for me.  And Easter Sunday’s benefits were indisputable.  But as for the Ascension, what’s in it for me?

Christianity is about a kind of love we call agape or charity.  It is love that looks away from itself to another and gives itself away for another.  The Divine Word did not become man or endure the cross because something was in it for Him.

Charity shares in the beloved’s joys and sorrows (Jn 14:28).  The first thing to remember about the Ascension is that it is about sharing in Jesus’ joy.  It is about celebrating his return to the heavenly glory to which he refused to cling (Phil 2:6-11).  It is about rejoicing that his crown of thorns has been replaced with the kingly crown, that the mocking crowd at Calvary has been replaced with myriads of adoring angels.  The Ascension is about Jesus’s triumph and glorification. If we get our attention off ourselves and allow the Holy Spirit’s love of the Son to animate our souls, we’ll experience greater joy than when we see our child hit a home run or graduate from college.

But the Ascension is not just about charity.  It is also a feast of hope.  Yes, there is something in it for us.  He goes to prepare a place for us (Jn 14:2).  We will also one day wear crowns made of gold instead of thorns.

For us to endure until that blessed moment, we need divine power.  That’s another reason we ought to rejoice in his Ascension.  He takes his place at God’s right hand so that he can pour out the promise of the Father, the Holy Spirit, upon his disciples (Eph 4:10).

As he ascends, he tells the disciples to wait for this power.  But notice that he does not tell them to wait passively for the rapture.  He does not instruct them to pour over Bible prophecies, debating about how and when he will return.  In fact in Acts 1:11, after the Lord ascends out of their sight, the angels ask why the disciples just stand there, staring into space.

The waiting is not to be a squandering of precious time.  It is waiting for a purpose, nine days of prayer (the first novena!) leading to empowerment.  Why empowerment?  Because they have challenging work to do.  “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations.”   (Matt 28: 16-20).

We used to think that evangelization was something that happened in mission countries far away, carried out by priests and religious.  But the Second Vatican Council told us that our own neighborhoods are mission territory, and that every single Catholic is called to be an evangelist.  Pope John Paul II proclaimed this as the “New Evangelization” because the place is new – right next door – and the missionaries are new since they include all us all.

I’m really not sure that St. Francis of Assisi ever said “Preach the Gospel always; when necessary, use words.”  But if he did, note this – Francis often thought it very necessary to use words.  His words could be heard in marketplaces, on street-corners, in Churches, wherever there were people.  Of course, preaching without an authentic witness of life is certainly counterproductive.  But forget about the idea that just the witness of our lives is enough.  It is not.  You may not called to preach on street corners, but Vatican II and subsequent popes, echoing 1 Pet 3:15, say that we all must be ready  to articulate what Jesus has done for us, what he means to us, and why he is the answer to the world’s problems.

Feel inadequate to the task?  You’re in good company. Benedict XVI’s first public statement was an admission of his inadequacy.  Do as he did – pray for the power of the Holy Spirit to move in and through you, and take the time to keep learning more about your faith so that you can share it with ever greater confidence.

Editor’s Note: Reflection on the Mass readings for the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord (Year ABC) – Acts 1:1-11; Psalms 47:2-3, 6-7, 8-9; Ephesians 1:17-23; Luke 24:46-53. This series for reflections on the coming Sunday Readings usually appears each Wednesday.


Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For his resources on parenting and family life or information on his pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 1.800.803.0118. This article originally appeared in Our Sunday Visitor and is reproduced here by permission of the author.


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About the Author

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For his resources on parenting and family life or information on his pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 1.800.803.0118.

Raised in Italian/Irish neighborhood in Providence, RI, Marcellino D’Ambrosio never thought about being anything else but Catholic. But like other Catholic teens, his faith was the last place he looked for fulfillment. Following in the footsteps of his parents, both professional performers in their single years, Marcellino set his sights on stardom, playing bass guitar in several popular rock bands by the time he was 16. At that time he encountered a group of Catholics whose Christian life was an exciting adventure, an adventure worth living for. So he laid his bass guitar aside and embarked on a road that led to a Ph.D. in historical theology from the Catholic University of America. His doctoral dissertation, written under the direction of the renowned Jesuit theologian, Avery Cardinal Dulles, focused on one of the theological lights of the Second Vatican Council, Henri Cardinal de Lubac, and his recovery of biblical interpretation of the early Church fathers.

His writing has been published in the international journal Communio, Abingdon’s Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation, the Tablet, Catholic Digest, Our Sunday Visitor, and Catholic News Service’s syndicated column "Faith Alive." His popular book, Exploring the Catholic Church and video course by the same name (known as Touching Jesus through the Church in the USA) have been used in hundreds of parishes all throughout the English speaking world. The Guide to the Passion: 100 Questions about the Passion of the Christ, of which he is co-author and co-editor, may prove to be the fastest-selling Catholic book of all time with over a million copies sold in less than three months.

Dr. D’Ambrosio, the father of five and a business owner, brings to his teaching a practical, down-to-earth perspective that makes his words easy to understand and put into practice. Audio and video recordings of his popular teaching are internationally distributed. He often appears on the international Eternal Word Television Network is regularly heard on the nationally syndicated radio show "Catholic Answers Live." Dr. D'Ambrosio has been a guest on Geraldo Rivera, At Large on FoxNews Channel, the Bill O'Reilly radio show and Radio America's news program Dateline: Washington.

In 2001 Dr. D’Ambrosio left his position at the University of Dallas to develop the work of Crossroads Productions, the apostolate of Catholic renewal and evangelization that he co-founded twenty years ago, and to more directly oversee the growth of Wellness Opportunities Group a company dedicated to helping people improve the quality of their lives physically, mentally, and financially. He, his wife Susan, and their five children, reside just outside of San Antonio, TX.

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