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 | Sr. Janet Schaeffler, OP

Why Does the Ascension Matter?

May 8, 2023 | This year we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension on May 21. Every time we recite the Nicene Creed, we state our belief in this important feast of our faith:

He [Jesus] ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

The Ascension is all about the presence, not the absence of Jesus. The apostles did not understand the Ascension to mean that Jesus was no longer with them. They expressed no grief or disappointment. Instead they “returned to Jerusalem with great joy.” (Lk 24:52) That’s not how you feel when you lose your best friend. The Ascension did not mean they lost something. They gained something. Jesus’ ascension brought him closer to them and to us than he was before. He left us on that mountain so that he might be with us. He was taken from our physical sight so that he might come to us – everyone – wherever we are.

Let's prayerfully reflect on what the Ascension means for us:

  • Jesus told his disciples that in order for the Holy Spirit to come, he had to return to the Father. The rather limited physical presence of Jesus – which could only be shared by a few disciples – had to be withdrawn so that the universal presence of Jesus might become available forever to everyone all over the world.
  • The Ascension tells us finally and completely who Jesus really is. The picture of Jesus returning to God the Father enables us to let go of previous and incomplete pictures of him. Certainly, Jesus is the baby at Bethlehem, but that’s not who he is now. He is the teacher of the Sermon on the Mount, but we know much more than just a record of his words. He died on the cross, but that’s not where he is today. The Ascension adds a final and critical photograph to the album of who Christ is and what he does. He is ascended – once more with the Father, Lord of heaven and earth, ruler of life and conqueror of death, the ruler of all human history. Jesus is still present to us each and every day.
  • The Ascension gives us something to do. Jesus commanded the apostles – and us – to make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey his commandments. With one stroke Jesus removed any and all ethnic and racial barriers. All people of all nations are to be invited to share in the communion of the Church.

The Ascension is not about absence. It's about presence. The last words of Matthew's Gospel are from Jesus: "Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age." (28:20)


Sr. Janet Schaeffler, OP, is an Adrian Dominican Sister who has spent many years in parish and archdiocesan catechetical ministry, including past Director of Adult Faith Formation for the Archdiocese of Detroit.