Today’s feast celebrates one of the mysteries of the Rosary – the Second Glorious Mystery. More than a physical event that the apostles experienced, the Ascension of the Lord is a divine mystery celebrating the glorification of Jesus far above every being that could be named. Jesus has concluded His mission of bringing salvation to mankind and now He is seated at the right hand of the Father. A kind of graduation from the second phase of His work.
It is not coincidental that this is graduation season. Graduation does not mean that you know everything and need no one to instruct you anymore. In fact, graduation from one level takes you to the back of the line of the next phase. Graduation is the end of a phase which ushers in even more difficult tasks. Elementary school is often the easiest. High School is tougher. Then college is something else. It’s after college that you really enter graduate level experience. Priests, for example, will take graduate level courses to complete their training and become ordained. There’re yet advanced degrees, at the Masters and Doctoral level; and even after that, there’s the post-doctoral level. For me, the last and ultimate degree that I seek is heaven. In fact, after graduating with a PhD, I realized how palpable my lack of knowledge was. I felt sorry for some kids of Our Lady’s College, Notre Dame, who three years ago during their graduation walked out on the Vice President, who was invited for the commencement, because of their perceived political disagreement with him. When these children enter the real world in search of jobs to fulfil the American dream, they will then understand that they, probably, have been deceived by their agenda-driven tenured professors. (I believe that many college-age children are not mature enough to understand politics. Many only understand rebellion. Humans, especially, those raised in free-for-all American society, grow up with a switch of rebellion turned on whenever it appears someone is telling them what to do. There’s a general distrust of authority and mistrust of authority figures. The only exception is when the authority figure is us; then, we complain that people under us won’t obey).
For Jesus, who already graduated at the first task of creating the world, for which we heard the scripture say that it was created through Him and for Him, His second task to redeem humanity -- whom He created -- through His agony and death on the cross was concluded with the Resurrection. We celebrate today His graduation from that work of Redemption which saw Him seated at the right hand of the Father. But He tells His disciples that everything is not done yet – though He has completed His own part. The last version of the work which is the announcement of that message to all the world is ours. Yet, even at that, it’ll not be vacation time for Him, but another beginning. He doesn’t back out, but tells them: “I’ll be with you always, until the end of time.” He continues to work through His disciples, who will teach in His name, work miracles in His name and even have the courage to face martyrdom for their faith.
On this feast of Ascension, Jesus gives us hope – that virtue that helps us to trust that through the merits of Jesus’ redemptive act, we too, after cooperating with divine grace, will also inherit the everlasting gift of heaven. Heaven will be our graduation.