Jesus' Ascension for our Salvation - Praying together before Pentecost

Homily for the Ascension of the Lord

by Fr. Tommy Lane

We know the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus are necessary for our salvation. But what about Jesus’ Ascension? The Ascension of Jesus is also a necessary part of our salvation. Jesus in John’s Gospel said to his disciples, “when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:3) So Jesus’ Ascension is Jesus going to heaven preparing a place for us. Jesus also said in John’s Gospel that if he did not ascend the Holy Spirit would not come, “I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16:7). After Jesus’ Ascension he is interceding for us before the Father in heaven forever. In the Old Covenant the high priest entered the Holy of Holies once a year to sprinkle blood to ask God for forgiveness of sins. But after Christ ascended he is continually interceding for us at the right hand of the Father as the Scriptures tell us (see Rom 8:34). So Jesus’ Ascension is necessary for our salvation just like his Passion, Death and Resurrection.

A number of times in the Scriptures we see that Jesus’ body was different after his Resurrection, so different that although he ate food and his wounds could be seen, his own did not recognize him. The two disciples on the road to Emmaus did not recognize Jesus (Luke 24:16). Mary Magdalene did not recognize Jesus (John 20:14). When some of the apostles were fishing and Jesus stood on the shore they did not know that it was Jesus (John 21:4). Jesus looked different and unrecognizable after his Resurrection because he had an immortal glorious body. Jesus had to ascend to heaven after his Resurrection because of his immortal body. He could not die again and the world is not the dwelling place for an immortal body, only heaven is the dwelling place for an immortal body. Jesus’ Ascension reminds us that who we are here is nothing compared to what we will be in the future, “Beloved, we are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2). Not only does Jesus’ Ascension remind us of a glorious future for ourselves but it also reminds us to look on everyone else differently. The disciples seeing Jesus in a different way after his Resurrection reminds us that in the next life we too will all be different with our glorious bodies. St. Paul wrote, “From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once regarded Christ from a human point of view, we regard him thus no longer.” (2 Cor 15:16)

We were shocked at what Judas did in the Gospel and we are also shocked by some of the disciples at Jesus’ Ascension in the first reading today (Acts 1:6). Judas had allowed himself to be corrupted by the devil, wanting a worldly kingdom now instead of the kingdom of God proclaimed by Jesus. We are shocked that some the disciples at Jesus’ Ascension still questioned if Jesus was going to give them an earthly kingdom now. Luke does not tell us that they were corrupted by the devil but they certainly had a false understanding of Jesus and what he was about. It is a reminder to us to be aware that no matter who we are, the devil is never far away and we always need to stay close to Jesus in prayer.

We read in Acts that after Jesus’ ascended the apostles returned to the upper room and there they remained in prayer with the disciples and women including Mary the mother of Jesus. We could say it was the first Novena. They were praying for the coming of the Holy Spirit as Jesus had told them to do. This reminds us of the importance of prayer. A day without prayer is a day without Christ. If we do not have daily contact with Christ through prayer I wonder can we really call ourselves Christians or followers of Christ? We do not think often enough of the importance of prayer. Our body needs air to breathe and we need time in prayer with Christ every day. If we stop breathing we die; if we stop praying we die spiritually and become just walking corpses. If at first prayer is difficult, do not give up; continue to pray until it becomes a joy for you. There are many ways to pray; find a way to pray that brings you into intimate contact with God every day. Prayer is not just saying words but a heart to heart conversation with God. Prayer is a conversation with God. Have this conversation with God every day. Five minutes, ten minutes is not even beginning. I am convinced that God desires us to spend a substantial amount of time in prayer with him every day. This is all the more necessary in the world in which we live so that we do not become corrupted by what is around us like some of the disciples in the first reading today (Acts 1:6). Therefore prayer means withdrawing from the world, turning off the TV, and instead giving time to God. If at all possible, a family would pray together. Praying together is the most beautiful thing a family could do. There is nothing more beautiful you could do as a family than to pray together. You go out for meals together sometimes and that is a lot of fun but that is nothing compared to praying together. That is what makes you really beautiful. Between Jesus’ Ascension and Pentecost, the apostles, disciples and women were like a big family praying. If they needed to pray, how much more do our families need prayer. Remember the well-known words of the famous Irish priest, Fr. Patrick, Peyton, “the family that prays together stays together.”

Like Jesus’ Passion, Death and Resurrection his Ascension was also necessary for our salvation since he prepared a place for us and sent us the Holy Spirit. His immortal body could no longer dwell on earth reminding us that what we are now is nothing compared to what we will be in the future. Between Jesus’ Ascension and Pentecost, the apostles, disciples, women and Mary were like a big family praying together. If they needed to pray to prepare for Pentecost how much more do our families need prayer. “The family that prays together stays together.”

Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2011

This homily was delivered in a parish in Maryland near where I have joined the faculty of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.

More homilies for the Ascension of the Lord

Enlightened to Our Calling and Destiny (Years A and C)

Jesus Continues to be Present in his Church after his Ascension (Year B) 2006
After Jesus’ Ascension don’t just sit there - Witness! 2008

Related Homilies: Waiting in Prayer for the Outpouring of the Holy Spirit

First reading, witnesses to the ends of the earth: Church growing through trials