238. Anchored in Heaven (Luke 24:49-53)

“Let us keep every before our eyes this great thought – everything in this world comes to an end, whether it be prosperity or adversity. Eternity alone never ends.” St. Alfonsus Liguori

Luke 24:49-53: ‘And now I am sending down to you what the Father has promised. Stay in the city then, until you are clothed with the power from on high.’ Then he took them out as far as the outskirts of Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. Now as he blessed them, he withdrew from them and was carried up to heaven. They worshipped him and then went back to Jerusalem full of joy; and they were continually in the Temple praising God.

Christ the Lord  In Luke’s Gospel, this scene takes place immediately after Jesus appeared to his apostles, showed them his wounds, and ate with them in order to assure them that he was no mere ghost. Thus, his ascension into heaven shares in the earthy reality of the rest of his Resurrection appearances. It is not an ethereal dissipation into some shadowy realm of vague symbols; it is the establishment of his Kingship on unshakable ground. Earthly kings and emperors always remain vulnerable; if their enemies don’t usurp them, death surely will. But Christ’s reign will never come to an end. Because he has ascended into heaven, his Kingdom is firm; his Church will never be destroyed. If we stay faithful to this King, our victory over sin, evil, and injustice (and the happiness that such a victory implies) is assured. Christ’s ascension should fill us with joy, as it did his disciples, because now we know for certain that the Christian cause is unassailable and that Christ’s Lordship is imperturbable.

Christ the Teacher Christ’s entire life – his words and works, and above all his suffering, death, and resurrection – is a lesson. It teaches us the way to repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Nothing is more important, since sin separates us from God, the only source of lasting happiness. This lesson must be preached in his name to all nations, as Christ instructed his apostles before this parting scene. For that reason, the apostles were called upon to be witness of these things. Of course, they would not be able to carry out their witness all by themselves; they would need the Holy Spirit. They would need to be “clothed with power from on high,” which happened at Pentecost. Thus, in the ascension of our Lord, we come face-to-face with the core of the entire Gospel: Christ’s saving message being transmitted to all people through the ministry of the Church.

Sometimes we become so involved in related but secondary issues (theological squabbles, new projects and ministries…) that we forget about this core. We shouldn’t need to wait for the annual liturgical Solemnity of the Ascension to return to it – to focus once again on the essentials and cut away any superfluities that might have been accumulating in the décor of our Christian life.

Christ the Friend  Jesus: Before I left them, I blessed them. Do you realize that the same blessing continues to radiate throughout the world today? What is my Church, if not the extension of my blessing, my life-giving love and grace, into every time and place, to all the nations? Isn’t that how you discovered my love for you, through my Church? How I long to bless you even more! How I long to draw you closer and closer to my heart. My fullness of life is no good to me alone. I want to share it with you, to fill you to overflowing with my abundant, fruitful life. I have no hidden agendas, no second, selfish intentions. What more could I desire than what I already have, unless it is your heart, the full flourishing of your soul? I want to bless you, and I want the blessing of your friendship…

Christ in My Life Who else can say, “My Kingdom will last forever”? No one. Absolutely no one else can say that. Only you. And you are mine, and I am yours. Dear Lord, thank you for giving me the gift of faith. Never let me take it for granted. Never let me be discouraged by the trials of life. You are reigning right now from a throne that will never pass away…

I am your messenger, Lord. Your triumph over sin and evil is my message. But so often, I really have no idea how to get the message across. I want to spread your Kingdom; I want to bear witness boldly, with words of truth and deeds of love. Be my strength, Lord, be my help; be my hands and feet and mouth. I give myself wholly to you – do with me as you please…

You know that I want to follow you. You know that the burdens and troubles of my life sometimes make me forget about that. Aren’t you here in the midst of them? I know you are, but I need help to find you. You have given me so much, but I need even more, Lord. I need you to open my eyes so I can discover and embrace your will and love in every moment of every day…

PS: This is just one of 303 units of Fr. John’s fantastic book The Better Part. To learn more about The Better Part or to purchase in print, Kindle or iPhone editions, click here. Also, please help us get these resources to people who do not have the funds or ability to acquire them by clicking here.


Art: Cover of The Better Part used with permission. L’Ascension (The Ascension), Gustave Doré, 1879, PD-US author’s life plus 100 years or less, published in the US prior to 1 January 1923, Wikimedia Commons.

About Fr. John Bartunek, LC

Fr. John Bartunek, LC, S.Th.D, received his BA in History from Stanford University in 1990. He comes from an evangelical Christian background and became a member of the Catholic Church in 1991. After college, he worked as a high school history teacher, drama director, and baseball coach. He then spent a year as a professional actor in Chicago before entering the religious Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ in 1993. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 2003 and earned his doctorate in moral theology in 2010. He provided spiritual support on the set of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” while researching the 2005 Catholic best seller, “Inside the Passion”–the only authorized, behind-the-scene explanation of the film. Fr. John has contributed news commentary regarding religious issues on NBC, CNN, Fox, and the BBC. He also served as the English-language press liaison for the Vatican’s 2005 Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist. His most widely known book is called: “The Better Part: A Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer”. His most recent books are “Spring Meditations”, “Seeking First the Kingdom: 30 Meditations on How to Love God with All Your Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength”, and “Answers: Catholic Advice for Your Spiritual Questions”. Fr. John currently splits his time between Michigan (where he continues his writing apostolate and serves as a confessor and spiritual director at the Queen of the Family Retreat Center) and Rome, where he teaches theology at Regina Apostolorum. His online, do-it-yourself retreats are available at RCSpirituality.org, and he answers questions about the spiritual life at SpiritualDirection.com.

This article is reprinted with permission from our friends at Roman Catholic Spiritual Direction.

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