| By Pete Burak

Why did Jesus ascend into heaven?

Feast of the Ascension: May 9

We all desire a place to belong, be known and be wanted. Which is why showing up to someone’s house party even though you know only one person there – and you’re not even sure if you’re really invited, and you’re worried everyone will think it’s weird that you came, and you probably should have just stayed at home – is such an uncomfortable situation. Being on the outside and looking in or longing to be a part of something, but not knowing if you can, touches the deep ache we have to be included and valued. Remember for a second the feeling of relief when you see your friend and she says, “It’s OK, she’s with me!” You’ve been claimed and validated, and now you know you’re in the right place.

Can you imagine the disciples’ emotions as they watched Jesus ascend into heaven? Their friend, Lord, master, teacher, brother and leader had taken them on a crazy three-year journey and after all hope seemed to be lost, he returned, but only to seemingly leave them again. Sure, he promised he would send the Holy Spirit (Jn 16:7-8) and he would be with them always, but it must have been painful to watch him go.

While Jesus’ ascension signifies many things, listen to the Catechism section 661: “Only the one who ‘came from the Father’ can return to the Father: Christ Jesus … Left to its own natural powers humanity does not have access to the ‘Father's house,’ to God's life and happiness. Only Christ can open to man such access that we, his members, might have confidence that we too shall go where he, our Head and our Source, has preceded us.” Jesus never stops leading us. He ascends to the Father to prepare a home, to gain admittance to the throne room, and to glorify humanity … all for us!

 The disciples’ angst over his departure would have been replaced with a deep joy, hope and confidence when the Holy Spirit comes on Pentecost, because not only do they now have the power to live like Jesus here on earth, but they have the divine presence necessary to be brought into paradise. Through baptism, faithfulness, repentance and intimacy with Jesus, we are invited, wanted and expected at the heavenly party.

Jesus ascends into heaven so we don’t need to wonder if our entrance into glory will include the awkward “should I really be here?” feeling but instead the glorious affirmation, “Well done my good and faithful servant, enter in to the joy of your master!” (Mt 25:21)

Pete Burak is the director of i.d.9:16, the young adult outreach of Renewal Ministries. He has a master’s degree in theology and is a frequent speaker on evangelization and discipleship.

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