The days spent with Jesus after He rose from the dead must have passed quickly for His disciples. How amazed and yet how painful it must have been for the Apostles when He summoned them to the mountain and told them that He was leaving them and returning to His Father.

Thirty-three years before the event of the Ascension, Jesus came to this earth to suffer and die on the cross and re-unite us to His Father. By His Passion, Death, and Resurrection, Jesus provided satisfaction for original sin, and for the sins of humanity. Today, we celebrate His return to the right hand of His Father.

This Feast of the Ascension celebrates the triumph of Jesus Christ over sin, suffering, and death. For a period of forty days after His resurrection, Jesus’ appearances to the Apostles and Disciples gave them tangible, visible signs that He was still with them. He gave them the power to forgive sins, He walked with them on the road to Emmaus and opened their eyes in the Eucharist. He prepared meals for them, He ate fish with them, Thomas put his hand into Jesus’ side.

Jesus’ ascension is the sign of his glory and power at the right hand of His Father. The ascension is his liberation from all the restrictions and limitations of space and time. It is the beginning of His constant presence with the Father in Heaven and His enduring presence everywhere on earth and in the universe.

Because of the ascension, the Holy Spirit was sent by the Father and the Son – to lead and guide the church for all time so that the great commission which Jesus gave to the Apostles and their successors could be accomplished: “Go and teach all nations and baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

Along with the Apostles, we too have been called and commissioned to be witnesses to Jesus’ passion, death, and resurrection; to be His witnesses wherever we find ourselves. We can gloss over these words and pretend they were not meant for us; but we have been chosen – just like the Apostles – to be true disciples of Jesus by truly living our faith.

Our lives must speak more eloquently than our lips do when it comes to witnessing and teaching. People would rather see a sermon than listen to one – and we must be that sermon. There is no reason for us to be reluctant disciples. Like those first disciples, we too have received the life and power of the Holy Spirit. Like those who watched Jesus “being taken up in a cloud from their sight,” we are reminded on this feast to get on with the work He entrusted to us. “You are to be My witnesses,” Jesus told them, “In Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, yes, even to the ends of the earth.” To be witnesses and disciples of Jesus – to fulfill this command means: We live – truly live our catholic faith.

In his Ascension to the right hand of His Father, Jesus did not leave us orphans, struggling in desperation. He left us hope – reminding the Apostles, and each one of us, that at His Ascension, Jesus did not abandon us – even when we are hurting from all the good-byes and the pain of separation which we must endure from the death of those we love the most. As Jesus said to His apostles at the last supper, He says to us: “Do not let your hearts be troubled am going to prepare a place for you, and then I shall come back to take you with me, that where I am, you also may be.”

Today’s Feast of the Ascension also reminds us that we can look forward to an eventual reunion with our loved ones who have died in the peace of Christ. For Jesus has gone ahead to prepare a home for us. At death, as Christians, we never say “good-bye,” but rather “until we meet again – merrily in god’s kingdom!”

The “good news” of the resurrection and ascension is that Jesus is still with us. The cloud He entered did not take Him away from us but rather brought Him closer to us in the mystery of His sacraments.

Through each one of us, the commission of Jesus in the Gospel today is accomplished, and His message of love and acceptance for us which comes from the cross, is proclaimed to all people, for all times, and in all places – even to the ends of the earth. Our God always finishes what He starts. The mystery of our redemption is brought to completion by the Lord’s ascension into heaven. If we imitate Christ in His suffering, we shall follow Him to the heights of heaven.