By Kaelanne Jordan
Our yearning for Heaven is what the Feast of the Ascension is really about.
However, Archbishop Jason Gordon has observed that many Christians spend most of their life looking for earthly glory, earthly fame, and earthly pleasure rather than heavenly pleasure, heavenly rewards, and heavenly acceptance.
“And that is the real drama of Christianity in our time. Because we have understood so much, we’ve understood so little at the same time,” the Archbishop said at a virtual Mass for the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, Sunday, May 24 at the Living Water Community Chapel.
The livestream Mass saw various families across the Archdiocese celebrating the Mass via Zoom.
The Ascension is a mystery that Christians ought to contemplate because it goes against the “trend” of our current culture and thinking.
The Archbishop believed that Christians have been “seduced” into believing that this earth and all that it holds is so “important”. Christians have also been seduced into thinking that we will conquer all by scientific advancement.
“And because we make this incredible separation between the scientific inventiveness and all the wonderful ways that science has enhanced our living and the God who is the gift of creation and everything…we somehow find ourselves in this foolish position where we either have to believe in science or we have to believe in God. And the ascension says no, no, no…because what we believe in the ascension is that Jesus’ resurrection is a bodily resurrection. It wasn’t a ghost; it wasn’t a hologram…” the Archbishop said. The mysteries of nature may have been “unlocked” through science, but this has also resulted in our being blinded to the inherent mystery of nature.
The fact that we can treat people so badly means that we do not understand that the body of Christ Jesus, which is in Heaven, is where our bodies are destined. “How could we treat any human body with less than full dignity? Because that’s where that body is destined to be. How could we not look at the poor and not see in that poor face the suffering body of Jesus Christ…how could we look at the migrant, the refugee, the stranger, the widow, the poor one…that this too is part of the body of Christ…. Every human body is filled with dignity and that is what we have to understand when me meditate, contemplate this mystery of the Ascension,” Archbishop Gordon said.
The Archbishop made reference to St Thomas Aquinas’ position that there are three reasons for the ascension into Heaven. The first, he said, is faith.
Commenting on this stance, the Archbishop shared his “foolish desire” of Jesus, rather than ascending into Heaven, He stayed on Earth like a “superman”, swooping down to correct person’s “foolishness”.
“You know how much foolishness we would have been saved?….the Holocaust, that could never happened, all them foolish wars that have taken place, would have never happened….He would have set us straight on that and teach us how to live in an integral ecology with all living things so that there is no destruction….There would never be poverty, because He would have set us straight…. Human slavery, corruption, never…” the Archbishop envisioned.
The problem with that foolish desire, the Archbishop asserted is that persons would have never “grown up”.
“We would have remained infants in the faith. And we would have been so reliant on Him, we would have never exercised our own judgement, our own discernment, our own criteria, our own vision of the Kingdom of Heaven, because we would have relied upon Him to come and sort out foolishness,” the Archbishop explained.
His going to Heaven is for our faith, for us to grow in faith and have the incredible challenge discerning through the Holy Spirit what is right and wrong. Maturity in faith, Archbishop Gordon said, is what our world needs right now.
St Thomas’ second reason for the ascension, is hope. Christian hope, the Archbishop said, is the hope that God is true to His word and that what He promised, He will deliver.
The third is love.
Pope Francis, in his message of the Pontifical Mission Societies on the Feast of the Ascension, said that the mystery of the Ascension, together with the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost, indelibly marks the mission of the Church: it is the work of the Holy Spirit and not the consequence of our ideas and projects.
“This is the feature that makes missionary activity bear fruit and preserves it from the presumption of self-sufficiency, much less the temptation to commandeer Christ’s flesh, ascended to heaven, for narrowly ‘clerical’ projects and aims,” he said.
When the ongoing work and efficacy of the Holy Spirit is not appreciated in the Church’s mission, it means that even the most carefully chosen missionary language becomes like “words of human wisdom” aimed at glorifying oneself or concealing one’s own interior deserts, the Pope said.