Why didn’t Jesus stay bodily on earth? Why was it necessary for Jesus to ascend into heaven before sending the Holy Spirit upon the Church? I think our Reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians can give us an answer. Paul prays that God the Father would give us the light of the Spirit to enliven the Body of Christ, as our promised inheritance as adopted sons and daughters of God. The promise of the Holy Spirit is the result of the Ascension of Jesus. By taking our humanity into heaven and sitting at the right hand of the Father, Jesus brings our humanity into the life of the Trinity. Practically speaking, what it means to be human is now part of what it means to be God, and vice versa. Where Christ has gone, we are now enabled to go. The doors of heaven are thrown open to us, and we are welcomed into the life of God.
By elevating our humanity, Jesus makes us worthy of taking part in God’s dominion over all creation. The order God gave Adam and Eve in Genesis to “fill the earth and subdue it” is now expanded to participation in Christ’s dominion. We are the Body; He is our head. As members of His Body we now are blessed to carry out His saving work, not just for the care of lesser creatures, but for the salvation of mankind as well! We are invited to become intimately involved in the ordering of the whole cosmos according to God’s will. The Father put all things under Christ’s feet, and Father and Son together send the Spirit upon us to bring our humanity into more perfect union with God. In Jesus, we get to sit on the throne with God, sharing in God’s authority and continuing His plan of salvation. This would be impossible without the Ascension of Jesus into heaven and the sending of the Holy Spirit.
This week, as we prepare ourselves for the celebration of the sending of the Spirit at Pentecost, let us meditate on the mystery of Christ’s Ascension. Heaven is our home, and sharing in Divine Life is our inheritance. May the Spirit of God enlighten our hearts, that we “may know what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones.”