On the Ascension of our Lord

[Icon of the Ascension]

Today, the seventh Sunday of the Easter season, we celebrate the ascension of our Lord into heaven. “‘You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight” (Acts 1,8–9).

“The mystery of the Ascension throws open before us the spiritual horizon before which such a gain* must be situated. It is the horizon of the victory of Christ over sin and death. He ascends into heaven as king of love and of peace, source of salvation for the whole human race. He ascends ‘to appear in the presence of God on our behalf’ as we have just heard in the Letter to the Hebrews (Heb 9,24). What comes to us from the word of God is an invitation to confidence: ‘he who promised is faithful’ (Heb 10,23).

“The Spirit whom Christ has poured forth without measure gives us the power. The Spirit is the secret of the life of the Church today as much as he was the secret of the life of the primitive Church. We would be condemned to failure, if Christ’s promise to the Apostles were not realized in us: ‘I will send the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high’ (Lk 24,49). The Spirit, Christ, the Father: the whole Trinity is involved with us.

“Yes, my dear brothers and sisters, we are not alone in taking the road that lies before us. With us go priests, religious and laity, young and old, all seriously committed to being like Christ and making the Church visible as poor in earthly goods and full of mercy, especially towards the needy and marginalized, a visibility which is resplendent on account of the witness of communion in truth and love. We will not be alone, the Trinity will be with us. Not with purely human strength, but only with the strength that comes from above, can we face the tasks I entrusted to the whole Church in my Apostolic Letter and the problems which we discussed in the Consistory. The contemplation of the face of Christ ascended to heaven continually bestows the certainty of one who never fails us.

“Looking to him, we willingly accept the warning of the Letter to the Hebrews, to ‘hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful’ (Heb 10,23).”

— John Paul II, from a Homily on the Ascension of our Lord, 24 May 2001

*John Paul had been outlining some of the fruits of a gathering of all the bishops that was just concluding.