Since the adoption of the new Roman Calendar, the Church permits the celebration of the Ascension to be moved the nearest Sunday. Thus, although many Catholics throughout the world celebrated the Ascension this past Thursday, many will also mark the occasion on Sunday.
The Ascension of Christ is not merely a fantastic account of the Lord Jesus returning to his Father, it is also an event packed with rich Christological importance. In the Ascension, Christ’s humanity is lifted up into the eternity of heaven. Although the Son, being divine, has always been eternal and infinite, when he took on flesh in the Incarnation he became bound up in the finitude of our human nature, while not losing any of his divinity. Now, in the Ascension, Humanity enters into the eternal realm of heaven. Christ, who retains his human nature even in heaven, now gives infinite extension to human nature. This is how we can encounter Christ physically and bodily in the sacraments: since his humanity is now infinite, he can be present bodily in every time and every place. Whether you attend Mass in Rome at St. Peter’s Basilica, or a small rural parish, the same Christ is bodily present in the Eucharist. Whether you are baptized by the Pope or your local parish priest, it is the same Christ, bodily present, who is the one baptizing.
It is true that God has always been spiritually present to his people, and while this spiritual presence is certainly more than we are worthy of, God’s love goes even further. Human beings are composite creatures of both spirit and matter, soul and body. Therefore, any truly human relationship needs to fulfill both the spiritual and corporeal dimensions. God, who desires relationship with his people more than anything, achieves this spiritual and bodily relationship through the genius of the sacraments. Every time we celebrate any one of the sacraments we truly encounter Jesus in a tangible way, accessible to our bodily senses. Sadly, in this time of global pandemic, many of us have been cut off from the sacraments for a prolonged period of time. Many of us have not been able to experience the fullness of bodily communion with the Lord. Of course we still have spiritual access to God, and nothing can separate us from his love. Even still, something is missing.
As people of faith we know that God can bring good out of evil. The most evil day in human history – the day Jesus was unjustly put to death – we call Good Friday, because even in the most evil of times God brings about an even greater good. We are living in evil times; we are afflicted by a terrible disease that is causing great suffering. But God will bring good from this. I would suggest at least one good thing is already clearly evident: we now have a newfound appreciation for the sacraments, the instruments of bodily communion with the Lord. For those of us still unable to receive the sacraments, let our hearts burn with desire for bodily communion with Jesus. And for those of us who have been able to receive the sacraments, let us offer up sacrifices for those who continue to go without. And may we all continue to see the sacraments for what they are: privileged moments of encounter with the Risen and Ascended Jesus.
Kevin Ponte – St. Joseph Seminary, Edmonton, Alberta
Fot. Joshua Gresham/Unsplash.com