Couldn't he have stayed with us after the Resurrection?
The ascension of Jesus into Heaven can evoke both joy and sadness among the Christian faithful. What if Jesus would have stayed on earth and didn’t ascend into Heaven? Wouldn’t have that been a better idea?
The apostles were wondering about this as well, and were left gazing up at the sky. They only turned away from the clouds after angels reassured them, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven” (Luke 1:11).
Jesus, being God, knows us better than we know ourselves and like a good doctor, gave us a prescription that would set us up for success. He explained to his apostles, “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 … I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming” (John 16:7, 12-13).
Though we cannot begin to reach the depths of God’s mystery, we can say — because Christ himself said it — that this is one of the main reasons Jesus ascended into Heaven. He wanted to give us an “Advocate,” the Holy Spirit to guide us in truth.
From his seat of glory at the right hand of the Father, Christ sends the Holy Spirit to communicate his glory. It is the Holy Spirit which allows us to hear the Word of the Father. The Holy Spirit allows believers on earth to glorify the Son.
Furthermore, Jesus also said that he needed to leave this earth in order to prepare a place for us in Heaven,
In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be (John 14:2-3).
Last of all, Jesus ascended into Heaven so that we might have the gift of his presence in the Eucharist. The Ascension paves the way for Jesus to be truly and substantially present in the consecrated Host at Mass. While Jesus is not visibly present in the Eucharist (though on some occasions he does reveal himself), he is truly present in the Eucharist, in the same way that he was present in Jerusalem. His Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament is one of the greatest mysteries of the Catholic faith, and one that highlights the reason for Jesus’ ascension.
So while we may share in the disciples’ sadness at the departure of Jesus from this earth at the Ascension, we remember that he has only “left” so as to grant a whole host of gifts to us. He may not be visibly present as he was in the first century, but he is even more present in our lives than we could possibly imagine.
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