Ascension and Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year C

Seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God (Col. 3:1)

Citing Psalm 68:18, the author of the letter to the Ephesians says (4:8-10):

Therefore, it says: “He ascended on high and took prisoners
captive; he gave gifts to men.” What does “he ascended” mean
except that he also descended into the lower regions of the
earth? The one who descended is also the one who ascended far
above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.

It appears that for the writer of the aforementioned letter, the ascension signals the giving of gifts. And, in fact, Jesus himself says in Jn. 16:7:

But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For
if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go,
I will send him to you.

Needless to say, the Holy Spirit is the greatest gift of all. He is the summation and the source of all gifts. The Holy Spirit endows the Church with different hierarchical and charismatic gifts, directs it by their means and enriches it with his fruits, while allotting his gifts to everyone according as he wills and distributing special graces among the faithful of every rank in order to make them fit and ready to undertake the various tasks and offices which contribute toward the renewal and building up of the Church, according to the words of the Apostle: “The manifestation of the Spirit is given to everyone for profit” (Lumen Gentium 4, 12). And if the Holy Spirit is indeed the principal gift, the gift of gifts, then surely the ascension points to the coming of the Holy Spirit also as it signals gift-giving.

The ascension guarantees, then, the coming of the Holy Spirit. Such a guarantee indicates likewise that we should await the promise of the Father with such longing that allows us neither food or sleep (that is to say, it is conducive to fasting and vigil) and strive eagerly for the greatest gifts of the Holy Spirit. Once we are baptized with the Holy Spirit and clothed with power from on high, no one and nothing can stand on the way of our being witnesses of Jesus Christ—neither our persecutors’ opposition nor our lack of strength, neither anguish nor distress, neither famine nor nakedness, neither peril nor the sword. Filled with the Holy Spirit, we will get to look up intently to heaven and see the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. Upon hearing the Spirit and the Bride say to the Lord Jesus, “Come,” we will then repeat after them, “Come.”

But let not the dwelling to which Lord is about to come be unworthy of him, which goes to say that we should make the appropriate preparation. As Father Robert P. Maloney, C.M., puts is, there is the “need to renovate the woodwork, the electricity, the plumbing. Sometimes a major overhauling is required; sometimes, only subtle refinements” (cf. the letter for Lent 1999 at [1]). And St. John Chrysostom, whom Father Maloney also quotes in the same Lenten letter, advises:

Paint the house of your soul with simplicity and humility and
make it splendid with the light of justice. Adorn it with the
beaten gold of good works and, for walls and stones, embellish
it carefully with faith and generous love. Above all, place
prayer on top of this house as its roof so that the complete
building may be ready for the Lord. Thus he will be received
into a splendid royal home and, by grace, his image will already
be settled in your soul.

So, then, to fix our gaze on him who is the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end—this should increase, rather than lessen, our sense of responsibility for the world today (Ecclesia es de Eucharistia 20). And worthy of the Lord, without doubt, will be a “more human world, a world fully in harmony with God’s plan,” a world which, seeing with the eyes of faith, takes the poor as royalty and deserving, therefore, of attention and service (cf. “An upside-own sign” at [2]).

For now the poor are in the lower places of the earth. Soon, however, they will take their places of honor alongside the one who descended and then ascended. They too will give a warm welcome to all those whom the Lord addresses with these words: “Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”