Saint Faustina and the Ascension

May 24, 2020, The Ascension of the Lord
•Acts1:1-11
•Ps 47:2-3, 6-7, 8-9
•Eph 1:17-23
•Mt 28:16-20

By Marc Massery

This Sunday, most dioceses in this country celebrate the Feast of the Ascension, when our Lord rose into Heaven after having walked the earth for 40 days in His resurrected Body. 

In the first reading, in the first chapter of the book of Acts, we read about Christ’s final moments before He ascends. Jesus and His disciples gather on Mt. Olivet, which is just east of Jerusalem. The Lord instructs them to wait in Jerusalem for the descent of the Holy Spirit, Pentecost, which we celebrate next Sunday:

[Y]ou will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. (Mt 28:8)

Then it says that He was lifted up from their sight in a cloud. As the disciples continued to look up into the sky, two men dressed in white stood in their midst and said to them:

Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven. (Mt 8:11)

In addition to the book of Acts, all four Gospels mention Christ’s Ascension. But did you know that St. Faustina tells her own account of the Ascension? Believe it or not, the Lord gave her a spiritual grace in which she was able to experience what it would have been like to ascend into Heaven alongside the Lord. Her account gives us insight into what the Ascension means for us. She wrote:

Today I accompanied the Lord Jesus as He ascended into heaven. It was about noon. I was overcome by a great longing for God. It is a strange thing, the more I felt God’s presence, the more ardently I desired Him. Then I saw myself in the midst of a huge crowd of disciples and apostles, together with the Mother of God. Jesus was telling them to... “Go out into the whole world and teach in My name.” He stretched out His hands and blessed them and disappeared in a cloud. I saw the longing of Our Lady. Her soul yearned for Jesus with the whole force of Her love. But She was so peaceful and so united to the will of God that there was not a stir in Her heart but for what God wanted.

Saint Faustina records the great longing for God she felt during these moments. She says here something counterintuitive, which speaks to the mystery of the Ascension: “[T]he more I felt God’s presence, the more ardently I desired Him.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that Jesus “precedes us into the Father’s glorious kingdom so that we, the members of his Body, may live in the hope of one day being with him for ever” (666).

In other words, the Ascension is a sign of our ultimate destiny — that we were made to be with God in glory forever. This explains why St. Faustina says here that she desired God more the stronger she felt His presence. It’s also why the Blessed Mother, in St. Faustina’s account, felt such longing for God during these moments. The Ascension reminds us that one day, like Christ, we will finally find our place before the Trinity for all eternality, where we’ll reach our ultimate fulfillment. Before we reach our ultimate end with the Trinity, it only makes sense that our longing for God, as St. Faustina experienced, will increase, until it culminates in that ecstasy that will last for all eternity.  

Saint Faustina, the Blessed Mother, and all of us were made for this final end. This is why the Lord died for us on the Cross. It’s what ought to bring us consolation in our most difficult times here on earth. We’re not made for this world. We are made for Heaven, where we will enjoy the beatific vision forever, never longing for anything again.  

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Photo credit: "Ascension," John Singleton Copley  (1738–1815)

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