“He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father…”
The Ascension is both the end and the beginning.
It is the end of Jesus’s physical presence on Earth. He has been appearing to his disciples for 40 days since his resurrection and it is time for Him to go to the Father. He does not just vanish. He does not go off in secret. He calls his disciples together and speaks to them before he is taken up.
In this moment His disciples could have felt abandoned.
They could have lost all hope, but Jesus left them with a promise. A promise that “in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit”(Acts 1:5). This is the feast of the Pentecost which we will soon celebrate. The feast of the Holy Spirit’s descent in fire upon the Church. So instead of fear and feelings of abandonment “they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy” (Luke 24:52) for “God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord” (Psalm 47)
So, it is also the beginning.
The beginning of Jesus’s call to action for his disciples and for us. “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15). It is the command given to us at the conclusion of each Mass. Will it always be easy? No. It will take time and work? Yes. We might be ridiculed and mistreated, but it is our charge.
As the venerable Fulton Sheen writes, “God submits us to sacrifice to make us saints” and St Maximilian Kolbe says “without sacrifice, there is no love”. Through this sacrificial love we share the good news of Christ’s saving power and of the merciful God who loves us.