On the Catholic Priesthood
ASCENSION OF JESUS CHRIST
«He ascended into heaven, sitteth at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty.” — Apostles’ Creed.
The only Son of God was made man, and became like unto us in all things, sin alone excepted. He died on the cross for the salvation of the world. His body was placed in a tomb; His soul descended into Limbo to deliver the holy souls who were waiting there until the blood of our Savior should wash away and blot out the sins of the world; which was necessary before they could enter into glory. The third day after the painful and cruel torments of the cross, Christ came forth gloriously from the grave, as He had foretold. Behold, my Brethren, what I explained to you in my last instruction.
Now, let us turn our attention to the sixth article of our creed, an article which will make the subject of this day’s instruction. Christ rises from the dead, ascends into heaven, and seats himself at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty. Listen, my Brethren, , to the account which the Evangelist St. Luke furnishes us, concerning the wonderful Ascension of our Savior, Jesus Christ, into heaven. After His resurrection, our divine Redeemer remained during forty days on earth, showing himself frequently to His Apostles and disciples, instructing them in many very important things; such as the establishment of His Church, the propagation of the Gospel, all that regarded the reign of God in the hearts of men, and every thing calculated to bring souls to the happiness of heaven. At last, when all the Apostles and disciples were assembled at Jerusalem, Jesus appears to them for the last time. He takes a seat at their table, eats and drinks with them. During the repast, He reproaches them, but with great benignity, for their want of faith in His resurrection, of which He had now come to give them still another evident and palpable proof; He imposes upon them the mission of preaching His word to every creature, and commands them to travel the whole world, propagating His religion and spreading His divine doctrine among all nations. To inspire them with courage and penetrate their hearts with a generous confidence, He bestows upon them the divine power of working miracles, thus to give greater force to the truths which they were to announce, and which the world, converted at the sight of these prodigies of the omnipotence of God, might embrace and practice.
Our divine Lord then rises, and, followed by His Apostles and disciples, goes out from the city, and proceeds to the mount of Olives. There His agony had commenced; thence too, will He take His flight into glory. He gives His Apostles and disciples the most consoling assurance that He would never cease to protect them; recommends them to remain at Jerusalem, until they should receive the Holy Ghost, the Comforter whom He had promised to send them; He speaks to them with all the tenderness of a father addressing his children, whom he is about to leave; raises His hand, blesses them, recommends them to the favor and protection of His heavenly Father; and then, full of glory and majesty, elevates himself in the air, and mounts gradually toward heaven. For some time the Apostles gaze on the form of their departing Master; but at length, the clouds of heaven conceal Him from their view. Jesus continues His ascent into heaven, seats himself at the right of hand of the Almighty Father, to whom He is perfectly equal, and is from whom He receives, as man, the first place in heaven, above every creature.
Jesus ascends into heaven; He goes to take possession of the glory which was due to Him. He had come down from the bosom of His Father, to take, on earth, the form of a slave, to live in poverty and disgrace,— to die in torments, to pour out His blood on the cross for the redemption of the human race. All has been consummated, the mission of the Man-God has been accomplished, and behold, “from the height of the cross, He shall draw all unto Him. The Son of man has crushed the serpents head; sin has been blotted out; the empire of the devil annihilated; error cheeked and light diffused; and the God of heaven and earth shall be adored in spirit and in truth. Yes, Jesus hath glorified His Father among men, it was just that He should receive from His Father infinite glory in the eternal mansions. But before quitting the earth, He said to us: “Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many mansions ... I go to prepare a place for you. And if I shall go, and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and will take you to myself; that where I am, you also may be.” (St John, xiv : 1, 2, 3.)
Christ ascended into heaven, to prepare a place for us there; He himself has said: “Where I am, you also may be.” A day will come, when it will he permitted us to participate in the glory of our divine Savior. It will be so if we place ourselves among the number of the true servants of Jesus Christ; if we preserve in our hearts and manifest in our conduct, the holy commandments which He has given us; if, in fine, we endeavor to render ourselves like to Jesus Christ, our Savior and our model, “A faithful saying,” says St. Paul to Timothy; “if we be dead with Christ, we shall live also with Him. If we suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him; if we deny Him, He will also deny us.” (2 Timothy, ii : 1, 2.) Where Christ is, there also must His servants be.
O! divine Jesus, let me dwell with Thee in eternity, in the tabernacles of Thy Father! But, O my Savior, I am so weak, and I fall into so many sins! Must not the splendor of Thy glory over- whelm the unhappy sinner, who would dare aspire to the happiness of heaven? This fear would fill my soul with desolation, did I not know that Thou hast ascended into heaven to be our advocate and mediator with Thy Father. “My little children,” writes St. John to the first Christians; “these things I write to you, that you may not sin. But if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the Just. And He is the propitiation for our sins.”(Epistle of St. John, ii : 1, 9.) Yes, my Brethren, Jesus Christ is our advocate in heaven; He who destroyed sin, is our Mediator with God; He is there under the eyes of His Father, as a constant victim and perpetual sacrifice for our sins. Should not this saving truth fill our souls with sweet and consoling hope! Jesus intercedes for us! God the Father did not spare His only Son, but delivered Him up for us, and how, after having bestowed upon us this gift, can He refuse us any thing which this divine Savior asks for us? Oh! we have an advocate whose influence over the heart of God is infinite, we can, therefore, reach heaven.
My Brethren, heaven is our country, and it is there only we can find happiness. We are only passengers on earth, and we see here only empty baubles, vanities, deceptions and sufferings. Let us not allow our hearts to be foolishly attached to the things of this world; let us remember that we live not for time, but for eternity. Let us seek the things that are in heaven, where Jesus Christ sitteth at the right hand of God; let us taste the things that are of heaven, and not the things of earth. When Jesus Christ shall appear. He who is our life, we too shall appear with Him in glory, if we walk in His footsteps, follow the example He has given us, obey the roles and precepts which He has imposed upon us, and love God and our neighbor as He has commanded. We shall reap in eternity what we have sown in time. Let us, therefore, keep our hearts raised up to heaven; let us have God always before our eyes, let us glorify Him, by advancing in the practice of good works, and then as vigilant and faithful servants, we shall deserve to ascend to the mansions of our divine Master. — Amen.