Today the Catholic Church celebrates the Ascension of the Lord, and we will hear accounts of Jesus’ ascension both in the first reading from Acts and in our Gospel.
Jesus told his disciples he had to leave but that they would receive the power of the Spirit. Why did he have to leave for that to happen? Here is how Karl Rahner explained it in one of his Ascension sermons:
Because he wanted to come close to us definitively, he has gone away and taken us with him. Because he was lifted up (on the cross of death and to the right hand of the Father) he and everything in him have become near. The reason for this is that his Spirit – the Spirit in whom Christ is near to us, the Spirit upon whom Christ from eternity in eternity bestows the eternal fullness of life from the Father, the Spirit over and above which there is nothing that Christ could give in all eternity – this Spirit is in us now. He is in us as the basis of the nearness of eternal contemplation, as the basis of the transfiguration of the flesh. We notice nothing of this, and that is why the Ascension seems to be separation. But it is separation only for our paltry consciousness. We must will to believe in such a nearness – in the Holy Spirit…..When we are apparently estranged from the nearness of his earthly flesh, then we are the more united with him…..He takes on our semblance only to give us his own reality – the eternal, inexpressible reality that he received from the Father, that he gives us in his Spirit, and that we can receive because he, returning home with all that is ours, made it possible to share in God’s own life.
Happy feast of the Ascension of our Lord.