In 2018 I had the fantastic opportunity of going on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land with a group of priests and lay people from Miles Christi. It was an experience that changed forever my way of reading Sacred Scripture. When reading the gospels, I find it very helpful to have a picture in my head to connect with the reality I’m reading about.
During our pilgrimage, one of the places in Jerusalem we visited was the Chapel of the Ascension, located on the Mount of Olives. The Chapel contains a rock with what is believed to be one of the footprints of Jesus before going into heaven.
Before leaving his footprints on the rock, Jesus gave some instructions to the Apostles that we can find in today’s Gospel and first reading.
I find it very powerful that Jesus’ last words before going into heaven in the Gospel of Matthew are, “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Mt 28:20).
When faced with our weaknesses, difficulties, and sinfulness, it is very easy to get discouraged. At times we might feel like giving up. Precisely in those times, we should remind ourselves of the words of Jesus. They give us hope that we are not alone.
Jesus goes to heaven not just to have a good time but to intercede for us. He is the only Mediator between God and man. He cares for you and me and constantly makes intercession for us to the Father.
The opening prayer of today’s Mass reads, “Where the head has gone before in glory, the Body is called to follow in hope.” The mystery of the Ascension of the Lord fills us with hope because he is the head of the Church. Because Jesus has triumphed, the whole Church has triumphed. Because Jesus is at the Father’s right hand, our human nature has already triumphed too. Since Jesus has made it into heaven, you and I can also hope to get there.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that “Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit.”
We trust that since Jesus is in a position of power, he will intercede for us. We also trust that he has sent us and the Church the Holy Spirit to strengthen us in our journey.
After the Ascension, the book of Acts tells us, “These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.”
As we approach Pentecost, let us devote ourselves “continually” to prayer. We need to beg for an increase in the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us. Jesus wants to increase his love in us; we just need to open ourselves to it.
A detail often overlooked is that everyone prayed “along with … Mary, the mother of Jesus.” In our preparation for Pentecost, let’s consider with what ardent desire, yearning, and love Mary prepared herself for the first Pentecost. May she give us a share in the desires of her Immaculate Heart.