From the Catholic Liturgy for Ascension Sunday, May 28, 2019. Matthew 28:16-30. Sometimes a person will ask, me, “Why is the Ascension ranked so high as a holyday in the liturgy, even above Ash Wednesday or the Annunciation?” It’s a good question and the answer is twofold. First, because it is the sign that Jesus’ saving mission on earth is accomplished. Second, because it proclaims that the human race has been changed, filled with unspeakable potential glory, and we will never be the same again.
You see, each of the three big “Jesus Holydays of Obligation” in our Catholic Faith speak to us of a certain aspect of our salvation, of what I like to call Jesus’ Rescue Mission. Each of them reveals what He did to rescue us from three consequences of Adam and eve’s original sin. Christmas reveals that Jesus as Emmanuel (God-with-us), restored humanity to intimacy with God. He shared our life, our existence, our struggles and joys, in every way except sin. Easter proclaims that Jesus conquered the two archenemies of the human race – sin and death – and destroyed their dominion. And the Ascension shouts out to us that the Risen Lord Jesus has handed us and our salvation over to the Father signed, sealed and delivered, so to speak. The Man Jesus now reigns in divine partnership with God as Lord of all creation, and invites us to share this awesome glorified life.
But the Ascension also is celebrated with great solemnity because it is a commissioning of us, his disciples, to engage in partnership with Him here and now. He commands us to participate in his Rescue Mission, making it something real and effective in the lives of others so that they, too, can ultimately live this Ascension-glory. And he empowers us to successfully carry on his Mission by the active presence of the Holy Spirit within us, whose coming we will celebrate next Sunday, on Pentecost.