By Donal Neary, SJ
Twelve sets of footsteps could be seen on the way up to the mountain—maybe more. One less set was seen on the way down. The Lord has gone from their sight, left earth, ascended into heaven. His work on earth complete; his work now handed over to the apostles, disciples, men and women who had been with him, heard his words and would be the ones to spread the message.
The details of the ascension of Jesus are lost to us; it is commemorated both in Jerusalem and in Galilee. The truth of this mystery is that he would no longer be bodily present among us, but with us the other ways.
The Mass gives us the ways he is present—in the community, the scripture, and the bread and wine… He is mostly present in the ordinary—in the daily and common life and relationships of the community. Where we truly try to live in love in the different situations and relationships of life, there God is present. We find his presence when we read the scripture—moments of pondering the word of God. We find his presence also in every living meal, which is a human eucharist.
The feast of the Ascension commemorates absence and then sends us to find him present everywhere among us. The word was made flesh and lived among us; the word has now left us in the flesh but still lives among us.
Reflect on this poem attributed to St. Theresa of Avila:
Christ has no body now but yours
No hands, no feet on earth but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on the world.
Yours are the feet with which he walks he walks to do good.
Yours are the hands with which he blesses all the world.