Source: Neo Jeremiah Voice of the Young Prophet Newsletter (May 8, 2016 issue)
He was taken up to heaven (Luke 24:51b) he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight (Acts 1:9c)
It is striking how the scriptures describe Jesus’ “moving up” to heaven. The English noun we us for is it “ascension” and the corresponding verb “ascend” seem to suggest that the subject is the one responsible for his own rising. But the scenario was not described as “Jesus went up” – Jesus was taken up. He was lifted up.
Jesus listened to the Father and obeyed His will. To the end of his stay on Earth, it remained true. In His return to the Father, His submission to the Father’s will was still apparent. His ascension was an act of submission to the Creator’s divine plan. Jesus was taken up. He was lifted up. By none other than God, the Father. As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI puts it in his homily in 2009 during his pastoral visit to Cassino, “The event is not described as a journey to on high but rather as an action to the power of God who introduces Jesus into the space of closeness to the Divine.”
In Fr. Paul’s exegesis during our NeoJ Lectio Divina and sharing session, he said that having gone back to the Father, Jesus has become closer to us more than ever. To Pope Emeritus XVI, heaven is “not a place above the stars… it indicates Christ Himself, the divine Person who welcomes humanity fully and forever, the One in whom God and man are inseparably united forever. Man’s being in God, this is Heaven.” Beyond our understanding of closeness merely on the physical level, the gospel reveals to us the closeness to God brought about by Jesus’ ascension. As Jesus is ascended to the Father, those who are in communion with Jesus are also brought to “God’s gates” – the gates of eternal life.
Furthermore, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI mentioned that “the Church does not carry out the roles of preparing for the return of an absent Jesus, but on the contrary, lives and works to proclaim His “glorious presence…” It is just fitting that we do the same with the disposition the disciples had as they returned to Jerusalem. They were filled with great joy! (Luke 24:52c) It is paradoxical how the disciples felt this way at their parting with Jesus. But how can we not be overjoyed when Jesus, in finding room in God forever, now finds rooms in our hearts, too? And with His presence in our lives transcending time and space, how can we be not led to having good thoughts and words, and carrying out good works? Let’s ponder these questions.