The Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord
May 8, 2016
José Maria Alvim Cortes, F.S.C.B.

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When Jesus ascended to Heaven, the Apostles assumed he was leaving them. They thought that the moment on the top of the hill was Jesus’ farewell. “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking
at the sky?” (Act 1:11). Two angels dressed in white garments brought them back to reality. The Ascension Feast is the feast of reality.

Where is Jesus after the Ascension? He is in reality. With his ascent to Heaven, he fills everything and everyone with his presence. We tend to conceive of Heaven as a remote “place” where God abides but Heaven is the ground and the source of all things.

With the Ascension, Jesus positions himself as the center of everything. He is everywhere. No space escapes his presence.

We are called to recognize his presence in all things and, therefore, perceive reality in a new and different light. However, like the Apostles, we tend to assume that religious things are up in the clouds and that real things are what we can grab with our hands. We identify reality with what really matters to us and assume that religious matters belong to the stratosphere. We have our real life—our interests—and then we may have some religious moments, detached from our other priorities.

In the second reading, St. Paul says: “May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened” (Eph 1:18). This means that we have an inner sense—the eyes of our hearts—allowing us to see the unseen.

Something in us prevents us from seeing Christ in reality. We are unable to recognize Jesus’ presence in whatever is before us. Our inner eyes are clouded by cataracts that distort our vision of reality. The Scripture says: “the reality is Christ” (Col 2:17) but we do not see it. We are alienated from this reality. When we do not recognize Christ as the center of reality, we do not see things as they really are but according to a different scale.

The world, the flesh and the devil are the classical enemies of the soul. With our collaboration, they distort the perceptions of the eyes of our hearts. We may not be aware of the extent of our exposure to the dominant mentality via the media. However, the way we think about love, family, relationships, work and so on is being profoundly undermined by this mentality, which opposes what our faith teaches us. Our technological civilization keeps us constantly distracted from ourselves and others. People look at screens more than at faces. We are always online but are we always “on” reality? We are always at risk of being somewhere else instead of at what is happening right now. Many times, it seems more important to take a picture or selfie than just live the moment. We do not really look at the beautiful mountain. We do not really look at the beautiful sunset. We do not really look at the beautiful face or really live the beautiful moment. We are too busy taking pictures! The image on the screen seems more real than reality.

The Ascension of the Lord is the feast of reality. Our faith teaches us a more profound way of living reality. If we recognize Christ in all people and things, we gain new understanding. We attain a new perception of reality, enter a new dimension and see all things in a new light. Only then do we comprehend how rich and deep reality is. Only then can we find complete satisfaction. St. Paul says: “May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones” (Eph 1:18). There are hidden treasures of infinite glory in reality. We do not see them yet but can discover them. Our knowledge of Christ initiates us into a profound experience of joy and peace. Today’s Gospel says: “They did him homage and then returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and they were continually in the temple praising God” (Lk 24:52).

May the Holy Spirit come to our aid. May he conquer whatever is in us that prevents us from recognizing Christ’s presence everywhere and in everyone. May the gift Jesus promised enlighten the eyes of our hearts and may we experience the greatness and beauty of reality.  Amen.

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