Have you ever wondered why we celebrate the Ascension? Making a big deal out of feast days like Christmas and Easter or maybe even Pentecost makes sense to most Christians, but it seems odd to celebrate the day when Jesus (quite literally, it seems) took off and left us behind. It could seem doubly odd given that we here in the Archdiocese of Omaha are among the few Catholic communities in the U.S. to celebrate Ascension on Thursday (exactly 40 days after Easter) instead of on the following Sunday.
The key to this celebration—and the reason the Church requires her members to attend Mass this day—is the fact that it points out a paradox: Jesus ascended, was taken out of the sight of the apostles, and yet He still remains present with His Church. By marking this holy day, the Church teaches us that Christ definitively has not left us orphans. Not only does He send the Holy Spirit upon the apostles at Pentecost and upon us in Baptism and Confirmation, He continues to communicate His presence to men and women in every era and in radically different circumstances through His body, the Church.
The eleven disciples went to Galilee,
to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them.
When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted.
Then Jesus approached and said to them,
“All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”