FEAST OF THE ASCENSION OF THE LORD, May 30
by Pope Benedict XVI, 2005
"...So what does the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord mean for us? It does not mean that the Lord has departed to some place far from people and from the world. Christ’s Ascension is not a journey into space toward the most remote stars; for basically, the planets, like the earth, are also made of physical elements.
Christ’s Ascension means that he no longer belongs to the world of corruption and death that conditions our life. It means that he belongs entirely to God. He, the Eternal Son, led our human existence into God’s presence, taking with him flesh and blood in a transfigured form.
The human being finds room in God; through Christ, the human being was introduced into the very life of God. And since God embraces and sustains the entire cosmos, the Ascension of the Lord means that Christ has not departed from us, but that he is now, thanks to his being with the Father, close to each one of us for ever. Each one of us can be on intimate terms with him; each can call upon him. The Lord is always within hearing. We can inwardly draw away from him. We can live turning our backs on him. But he always waits for us and is always close to us.
From the readings of today’s liturgy we also learn something more about the concrete way the Lord makes himself close to us. The Lord promises the disciples his Holy Spirit. The first reading that we heard tells us that the Holy Spirit will give “power” to the disciples; the Gospel adds that he will guide them to the whole truth. As the living Word of God, Jesus told his disciples everything, and God can give no more than himself. In Jesus, God gave us his whole self, that is, he gave us everything. As well as or together with this, there can be no other revelation which can communicate more or in some way complete the Revelation of Christ. In him, in the Son, all has been said to us, all has been given.
But our understanding is limited: thus, the Spirit’s mission is to introduce the Church, in an ever new way from generation to generation, into the greatness of Christ’s mystery. The Spirit places nothing different or new beside Christ; no pneumatic revelation comes with the revelation of Christ - as some say -, no second level of Revelation.
No: “He will have received from me...”, Christ says in the Gospel (Jn 16: 14). And as Christ says only what he hears and receives from the Father, thus the Holy Spirit is the interpreter of Christ. “He will have received from me”. He does not lead us to other places, far from Christ, but takes us further and further into Christ’s light. Consequently, Christian Revelation is both ever old and new. Thus, all things are and always have been given to us. At the same time, every generation, in the inexhaustible encounter with the Lord - an encounter mediated by the Holy Spirit - always learns something new.
The Holy Spirit, therefore, is the power through which Christ causes us to experience his closeness. But the first reading also has something else to say: you will be my witnesses. The Risen Christ needs witnesses who have met him, people who have known him intimately through the power of the Holy Spirit; those who have, so to speak, actually touched him, can witness to him.
It is in this way that the Church, the family of Christ, “beginning at Jerusalem”..., as the Reading says, spread to the very ends of the earth. It is through witnesses that the Church was built - starting with Peter and Paul and the Twelve, to the point of including all who, filled with Christ, have rekindled down the centuries and will rekindle the flame of faith in a way that is ever new. All Christians in their own way can and must be witnesses of the Risen Lord..."