The Ascension of the Lord is the feast of the new way of the Lord's presence. It is the feast of "I-have-left-only-so-that-I-can-remain". The Lord has finished his mission on this earth and now it seems to be time to say farewell. The disciples are devastated. They don't want to see an end to this relationship. Jesus has changed their lives in a massive way. Jesus chooses a way to remain that allows him to be present in other countries and centuries all over the times and places of this world. The Lord remains present wherever two or three people are together in his name. Wherever a family prays, wherever a group of people gather and share their lives, wherever a few are friends because of him, there the Spirit of Jesus works in people and things start to happen.
Today the human presence of God in this world is happening. Do you perceive it? Today some children are receiving him and are full of joy. And us hopefully too. Today an adult coming from another story is received into the Catholic Church and receives the Holy Spirit. At this time, many people from our parish community are making a fervent effort to make a mission here. There, wherever people commit and prepare, the Lord comes and transforms lives. First of all the lives of those committed. But also the lives of others. Do you perceive the presence of the Lord expanding and becoming more incisive among us? don't you? Whoever tries to render witness to the Lord with his life is already a part of the mystery of Christ present in the world.
Today, in a country wounded by terrorist attacks, many people gather in different places and pray for peace rather than having feelings of revenge. The resurrection of the Lord, his Ascension into heaven and his coming among us in his Spirit is the origin of an indestructible hope even in these dark times.
To sum it up, the Ascension means the presence, not the absence of Jesus. The apostles firmly believed that he would still be with them by his Spirit. After the Ascension they “returned to Jerusalem with great joy”, not an emotion you feel if you have lost your best friend! (Luke 24:50-53). The Ascension meant gain not loss. Jesus will be closer to them than he ever was before. And he left Mount Olivet to be with us also, and in every human gathering in his name and in many places the world over, including Maidenhead and Saint Edmund Campion.
"The Christian message announces the permanence of the fact of Christ, as a continuous happening – not something that happened once – but as something that still happens." (Luigi Giussani, Why the Church?, 203) What do you need to leave in order to let him still happen?