The Lord’s Ascension into heaven to the right hand of the Father is the sixth article of faith within the Apostles’ Creed. By this mystery, we believe that Jesus Christ, in his resurrected body and soul, went up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God the Father, making way for the Holy Spirit to be sent upon the earth and inspire the Apostles to preach the Gospel to every land. When Christ ascended into heaven, he did so on His own power and he ascended as true God and true man. This belief is rooted in the eyewitness testimony of the Apostles. Even now, Christ still bears the marks of the Passion but now exists in a glorified state. At the Ascension, the Jesus who once startled the Apostles on Easter Sunday night now becomes their great hope. It was this encounter with the Resurrected One that compelled the Apostles to preach the Gospel to the point of shedding their blood as martyrs.
There are some persons who claim that they would have deeper faith if only they could have witnessed the Ascension of Jesus. However, there is compelling proof that simply going back in time to have seen Christ perform his many miracles would not necessarily guarantee the strengthening of one’s faith. After all, Judas Iscariot spent three years with the Lord and witnessed Jesus cure invalids, multiply bread for the multitudes and raise at least three persons from the dead. And yet, Judas betrayed our Lord. Thus, it is clear that having been an eyewitness to the Ascension would not necessarily confirm one’s faith.
And yet, it is precisely the mysterious nature of this event that draws the believer to an increase in the virtue of hope — a filial trust in God that helps us transcend all of the suffering of this life and assures us that we can one day join him in heaven. Whenever we are beleaguered by the rigorous demands of the Christian life, the Ascension of Jesus reminds us that heaven awaits those who are faithful and that all of the sacrifices we make in this life can be meritorious for us in the life of the world to come. Moreover, the Ascension compels us to seek those souls who are still far from really knowing Jesus. It moves us to share our hope in Christ with the person who is near despair or the co-worker or neighbor who needs to know that life is worth living. The hope of the Ascension reminds us to witness to others that there is a life in the world to come beyond all of our imaginings and that what we do here on earth will reap either a great reward or eternal punishment.
We do well to pray that we continue to lift up our hearts to our Father in heaven, with our eyes firmly set on our heavenly homeland and our ultimate desired destination. May our hope in Him who has ascended to the Father’s right hand encourage us to proclaim this hope to others so that His glory may be theirs.