Thoughts about the Ascension

The transfiguration of Jesus already spoke of the glory of Jesus; in this story, the showing of Jesus’ glory (we recall that glory is a characteristic of kingship) means to underline what in the hours of Jesus’ trial and death seemed an impossible outcome of crucifixion. To put his death in proper focus, Jesus will say after resurrection, was it not necessary that the Messiah suffer and enter into his glory? Glory then is, if one understands rightly Jesus’ life of fidelity, even in terrible suffering, an expected conclusion to the crucifixion. Glory is the final outcome, the final word; for him there will be no more suffering. Indeed, terrible though the suffering of his life could be (and was), such pain was, upon reflection, transitory in relation to, only a step to his eternity spent in glory.

Jesus’ glory, which the Ascension means to accentuate, is a desired value for all human beings. Glory is wonderful, and includes life (no more death) and complete happiness in the most possible form. But ‘glory’ particularly points our attention not to it, but to the reason for it – for glory. Ordinarily in ancient times glory was based on wealth, and talent and beauty; there must be some reason or quality for glory, for the fullness of life it represents. In Jesus’ case, the reason he will be glorified is in a word, love. It is that intense devotion to and admiration of his Father, heart and soul and mind and strength, which leads to doing – that is what we are to see in the glorification of Jesus, and this leads to a final word.

Advertisement

Luke’s Gospel and Acts, which talk directly about the Ascension, understand that there was no completion of love of Father and Son until they were one forever. Thus, though resurrection has its marvellous lessons and values (a belief to live and die for), the coming to life remains, if not empty, at least unsatisfying – until one is with the one he loves, and forever. Then one will know fully ‘what it was s all about’. And one will for all eternity appreciate the words, “How good it is to be back, to be with you!”

But like the resurrection, the ascension became not just a personal joy, but a public statement; neither was done in secret, but quite openly. Why? Because their recounting is meant to show our end, the true end and not a false understanding because of suffering or a forgetfulness because we are so long away from our Love.

John Kilgallen, SJ

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

Advertisement

The latest from america

So what does it matter what a celibate woman thinks about contraception?
Helena BurnsJuly 20, 2018
Former US President Barack Obama gestures to the crowd, during an event in Kogelo, Kisumu, Kenya, Monday, July 16, 2018. (AP Photo Brian Inganga)
In Johannesburg, Obama gave what some commentators consider his most important speech since he vacated the Oval Office.
Anthony EganJuly 20, 2018
With his "Mass," Leonard Bernstein uses liturgy to give voice to political unease.
Kevin McCabeJuly 20, 2018
Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, arrives for the Jan. 6 installation Mass of Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, N.J. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)
Women often “bring up the voice of those who are the most vulnerable in our society,” says Hans Zollner, S.J., who heads the Centre for Child Protection in Rome.