By Christopher Wells
There are none of the usual feeling of loss or abandonment among the disciples when Jesus ascended in the Heaven, said Pope Francis at Sunday’s Regina Coeli. Instead, “despite their separation from the Lord, they do not appear grief-stricken, but rather, are joyful and ready to go into the world as missionaries.”
“Why are the disciples not sad?” the Pope asked. “Why should we too rejoice at seeing Jesus ascend into Heaven?” His answer: “The Ascension completes Jesus’ mission among us.”
In Italy, as in many countries throughout the world, the solemnity of the Ascension is observed liturgically on the sixth Sunday after Easter. “After descending into our humanity and redeeming it, now Jesus ascends to heaven, taking our flesh with Him,” the Pope said. Jesus is the first human being to enter Heaven, precisely because He is both true God and true man. “Our flesh is in heaven,” the Pope exclaimed, “and this gives us joy!”
His Ascension is not “an abandonment," because Jesus "remains forever with the disciples, with us” in prayer. Jesus shows the Father the wounds “with which He redeemed us,” — and this, the Pope said, “should give us security, and even joy, great joy!”
The second reason for joy, the Pope continued, “is the promise of Jesus” to send the Holy Spirit. After His Ascension, Jesus “sent us the Holy Spirit, He promises us the Holy Spirit, in order to go out to evangelize. This is the reason for the joy of today, for the joy of this day of the Ascension."
Pope Francis concluded his remarks with the prayer that “Mary, Queen of Heaven might help us to be in the world courageous witnesses to the Risen One in the concrete situations of life.”