Grant, we beseech Thee, almighty God, that we who have believed Thy only-begotten Son our Redeemer to have this day ascended into heavens, may ourselves also in mind dwell amid heavenly things. (Collect)
My dear brethren,
Would it not be better if Our Lord had stayed?
One of the temptations that must have entered into the minds of at least one of the apostles as they gazed heavenward after Our Lord had disappeared from sight behind a cloud was the question, “Wouldn’t it have been better if the Master had stayed with us? If we are to establish Christ’s kingdom on Earth, as He has commanded us to do, would it not be better if He were to lead us? People would then believe in Him; they would see His power and His miracles. He was immortal now and a source of wonder even more so than before? Things would be so much easier.”
Things would indeed be easier, my dear brethren: easier if it was to be an earthly kingdom; easier if the measure of success, the goal of the kingdom, was a purely material one. But, the reality is that while His kingdom is to be established on Earth, its finality, its perfection is necessarily in heaven.
Why Jesus ascended into heaven – quoad se
Our Lord had to ascend to heaven and remain there in his physical body not only on His only account.
- His body was not made for the Earth and in its resurrected incorruptible state it was now a little out of place for it had begun a new incorruptible life and was fitted for heaven.
- His mission was to terminate in heaven too. Just as creation is an emanation from God and made to return to God in a sweeping circle, the mission of the Word into creation for our redemption has its terminus in heaven.
- Also in justice, Our Lord had merited heaven for the whole of humanity in the objective redemption; it would incongruous that God’s justice deprived Himself of that which was merited by His suffering in the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity.
Why Jesus ascended into heaven – quoad nos
Ultimately, just as His Incarnation, Passion, Death and Resurrection was on our account, His Ascension was too. His Ascension was necessary as an instrument to bring the three theological virtues in the members of His Mystical Body to perfection:
- Faith in the bodily absent Christ has its full scope, resting utterly without question on His word alone.
- Hope in that it would never be hard again for His children to hope for heaven, knowing that He had gone before them to prepare a place, to intercede as the High Priest of the New Testament in the Holy of Holies. If He had remained on Earth, His children would not wish to leave Him, to look heavenward.
- And Charity because when Jesus said “It is better for you that I go,” it was so that our love for Him, our charity might be refined and pure. If He had stayed the risk would be that we would love Him with a cosy weak human love instead of a courageous burning love, a love to the point of sacrifice. As love has its climax in union, by giving Himself to us in the sacrament of the Eucharist and by sending the Paraclete (meaning intercessor), He would be with us more intimately in Holy Communion and even more so by His inhabitation through grace.
And so my dear brethren, let us celebrate this feast today with all gladness, for the work of Objective Redemption has now been completed; and with its completion we can look forward with hope to the day when we, the faithful (if we remain faithful), join the risen Christ in the empyrean heaven for ever and ever.
This sermon was preached by Rev. Fr. Robert Brucciani