As the Easter season begins to draw to a close, the Risen Christ ends His time appearing among His Apostles and dis-ciples, and returns to His Father in a final moment of glory. This feast, in presenting to us Christ’s return, body and soul, into heaven, can seem like a strange one to us, or at least a moment the practical effects of which are not immediately clear. Christ rises to heaven on the clouds. Now what? What does that mean for me? How does that change the way I go to work or interact with my family? The Ascension can seem, for lack of a better word, like a mythical event attached to the end of the Lord’s life, like an appropriately supernatural end to a supernatural life.
Yet the Ascension does in fact mean something of the greatest importance for us, here and now, because by Baptism, we are joined to Christ as members of His body, and branches in the vine. If Christ is our head, and we are His members, then when He ascends into heaven to sit now in the glory of God the Father, and rest from all His labors, we ascend with Him! The head of the body in which we are members is already in heaven, which means that we have also begun to live there already! Though we, as the members of the body may still leave here on earth, below the clouds, contending with the foul weather and shadows of this world, the head of the body has emerged into the unobscured sunlight above, and takes in the warmth of heaven’s unending day.
This means, that the same joys of heaven are also accessible to us here on earth, so long as we remain close to Christ. We live as citizens of heaven, not just at some hoped-for point in the future, but also now, by participation in Jesus. This means that we do not have to live our earthly lives entirely focused on the tasks or crises directly in front of us, but with our hearts already in glory and at peace. Our lives on earth are only the prelude to the eternal life already begun in us through Baptism and the other Sacraments. This truth can bring peace, courage, patience, and forbearance into our jobs, our homes, our families, and our interior lives, no matter what else is going on, and it is worth going through anything, no matter how de-manding, to receive the Sacraments well and share that celestial security.
For this reason, we should not be surprised to find that Jesus takes this moment, as He inaugurates the heavenly life for all of those joined to Him, to give the command: “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” It is this Sacrament of Baptism that gives us access to the glory the Risen Christ now experiences not just in His divinity, but in His human nature as well. He wishes to bring every single soul that has ever lived into this glorious peace along with Him, and so He wishes to Baptize every person on the face of the Earth, joining them to Himself. While the decision is left up to each individual whether to accept this invitation or not, the Lord’s invitation, expressed in His last joyful command, urges us to at least do what we can to make sure that each soul has at least received that invitation, beginning with our own. Opening our hearts to the life of heaven that Christ offers us, by drawing near to the Sacraments of His Body the Church, not only does honor to God’s will for our lives, but gives joy to the King of Heaven, who only wishes to give us His glorious inheritance as our own.