Wednesday, May 04, 2005

St. Thomas on the Ascension

St. Thomas discusses an objection that says Christ should not have ascended to heaven because it would have been better for us if he had stayed on earth. Imagine if Jesus had remained on earth--we would be able to go and talk to him, see him in person, tell him our problems, get his advice. I really like that idea.
But then Thomas gives some reasons why it was more fitting for Christ to leave us and return to the Father. First, to increase our faith: "Blessed are those who have not seen but have believed." Second, to give us the hope of one day joining him in heaven: "I go to prepare a place for you." Third, to kindle charity in us by directing our thoughts to heavenly things: "Seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God."
What thoughts do you have on this?


Nancy Ullrey said...

Sr. Lorraine, thank you for such an intersesting question.

For me, Jesus the Christ is present today on earth. Not in the physical reality of the historical man Jesus of Nazarus, but in all the baptized believers who follow the Christ. As St. Paul wrote, we are now the Body of Christ, and as such we must make ourselves available to each other to talk with, to visit, to tell our problems to each other and get our advice. So in a real way Christ is present in the world today.

At the same time, we know that Jesus the Christ existed in history, and his physical absence does indeed, I think, call us to greater faith and trust in how God, Christ and the Spirit works. In praying and meditating about the Christ and his teachings, we respond to God's call to be more fully human and to help build the Kingdom of God. The Christ's absence too, I think, allows us to be more open to the power of God working in our lives; if the man Jesus was still around, might we not rely only on him and not in how God is working through each one of us?

Tom said...

The Ascension is not only fitting, but practically necessary.

If each Catholic now alive lived to be eighty, and each got to spend time alone with the unascended Christ, we'd each get about two and a half seconds with Him.

Note also the condition of the disciples immediately before and after the Ascension. Passive and clueless. "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" Then standing around looking up, like baby chicks waiting to be fed.

Then, too, "If I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you." If we think of His Ascension as a true sine qua non of Pentecost rather than an unrelated event that just happened to occur first, then we would be as helpless as little chicks, unable to get close to Jesus and without the Holy Spirit in our hearts.

Sr. Lorraine said...

That's a great point, to link the Ascension to Pentecost. Jesus had to send the Spirit.

Robin L. in TX said...

Reading some of the Jewish converts to Catholicism, it was important for Jesus to ascend in order to fulfill the Jewish Day of Atonement. He had to ascend so He could present His sacrifice to the Father. As He presents Himself, we are able to offer ourselves, sufferings, trials, works, joys, and faith to Jesus to perfect and offer along with Himself to the Father.

Just as Jesus is the once for all time perfect offering, so too is He the Way in which our offerings are made to God.
Just as the High Priests would make the offering once a year, for themselves and the Chosen People, so is Jesus doing now until the Day He comes again.
And thus He (or the Holy Spirit) fulfills all the major feasts of the Old Covenant...

Sources: Worthy is the Lamb by Thomas Nash, and Salvation is from the Jews by Roy Schoeman

In Christ's peace and joy,

Robin L. in TX

J. Mark Thompson said...

I'm told it's a common reaction for people who miss someone to begin to imitate him.