Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord – May 20, 2012 – Year B

In the Presence of God For Us

By Dennis S. Hankins

And when he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. – Acts 1:9

An infant will cry when its mother leaves the room. Every mother knows that this true. A child at such an early age does not think in the abstract. Children at that age typically believe what they can see and feel and hear and taste. They are dependent. The father can try his best to comfort and reassure the crying infant to no avail. Mother has left the room and with her the little baby’s comfort. In the world of babies mommy is gone when she is out of sight.

Jesus reassured his closest disciples. Going to the Father did not mean that he was abandoning them. “I will never leave you nor forsake you. I will be with you to the end of the age,” Jesus said. He would not be farther away. In the presence of his Father he would be as close to us as the mention of his name in our prayers.

In the womb of Mary, Christ became bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh. Forever Christ appears in the presence of God for us in his glorified humanity. The wounds in his hands and head and his feet and side forever mark him. One like us except for sin ascended far above all the principalities and powers and took captivity captive. In his holy humanity he returned to his Father’s house. Amid the adulation of innumerable angels he was welcomed home. And all the hosts of heaven sang out,

Lift up your heads, O Gates!
and be lifted up, O ancient doors!
that the King of Glory may come in.

Who is the King of glory?
The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord, mighty in battle!

Life up your heads, O Gates!
and be lifted up, O ancient doors!
that the King of Glory may come in.

Who is the King of glory?
The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory!
(From Psalm 24)

The disciples watched as a cloud received him out of their sight. It was not an ordinary cloud like we see on a lazy Tennessee summer afternoon. Clouds in scripture often signify the presence of God. The Israelites were led by a cloud by day in their journey through the desert. A cloud enveloped Jesus and his disciples at his Transfiguration. Gabriel announced to Mary that the power of the highest would ‘overshadow’ her. Pope Benedict in his second book on Jesus of Nazareth explains that the reference to the cloud in the Ascension is unambiguously theological language. He says it presents Jesus’ departure, not as a journey to the stars, but as his entry into the mystery of God. The Pope shares that Jesus did not enter into another space for God is not spatial, but divine. Therefore “sitting at God’s right hand” means participating in this divine dominion over space.

Sitting or standing at the Father’s right hand also says something about prayer and Jesus’ intercession for his Church. It is good for us to reflect on this a moment. For if we do we will begin to know in our knower that Jesus ever lives to intercede for us and for the whole world for which he died. (Hebrews 7:25) Stephen, the first martyr of the Church, saw Jesus interceding for him. At the hour of his death he gazed into heaven and said , “I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:56)

In the heavenly sanctuary of divine love is a place for us. We know this is true because Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you.” One day, in the providence of God Christ will come again and receive us unto himself so that where he is we may be also. Until then we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the expiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:1-2)

Sursum Corda.  Amen.

Readings for this Sunday

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