The Passing of the Baton
The Ascension celebrates that Jesus has come full circle because, having come from the Father to accomplish a specific mission, he returns to the Father having achieved what he was sent to do. And he was sent to save us from spiritual death and alienation from God that is due to our sins.
In another sense, the Ascension marks the passing on of the baton by Jesus to his apostles. At the beginning of his public ministry, he had preached that the kingdom of heaven was close and he had challenged people to repent of their sins and believe in the Good News, which involves putting the teachings of Christ into practice in their lives. Now the responsibility for that ministry was being passed on to the apostles and disciples. They were mandated to continue his saving work, drawing all nations to the truth of the Gospel.
Jesus’ departure from the earth and his return to heaven did not mean that his apostles and disciples would remain alone in their mission. Although he would no longer be physically present, he told them: ‘And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time’ (Mt 28:20). So there was no need for them to worry or to be lacking in confidence because he would be spiritually present, especially in the sacramental life of the Church.
He also promised to send the Holy Spirit who would guide them in their various activities. In fact, the Church will never be alone and it will never be abandoned by the risen Lord Jesus.
The message of the Ascension is clear. The saving work of Christ is now being handed over to the Church. The baton is being passed on to us. Just as in a relay race, it is imperative that we do not drop the baton. In other words, the responsibility for passing on the faith rests with us. Let us carry the faith with courage and conviction and let us pass it on to those we meet.
~ John Litteton