A New Law Of Gravity
The Ascension of the Lord gives us access to a new freedom. Left to ourselves, we are drawn downwards and drift apart from each other, “without hope and without God in the world” (Eph 2.12), “tossed back and forth by the waves and carried about by every wind” (Eph 4.14). With the ascension of Jesus something changes. We suddenly have new confidence, a new sense of direction and freedom. Because the risen Lord united us to him, he brings us with him as he enters into the Father’s house. The letter to the Hebrews uses the image of having access to a temple to explain our new freedom: “since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place … let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings” (Heb 10.19-22).
This freedom results from the gift that Jesus sends us from heaven after sitting at the right hand of the Father: the Holy Spirit is the bond between the Father and the Son and now unites us too with the risen Lord and with each other. It ignites in our hearts the same desire to return to the Father which the great second-century martyr Ignatius of Antioch described as a “living water in me, which speaks and says inside me ‘Come to the Father’”.
Therefore, we can see the Ascension of the Lord as a new dynamism suffusing our history and our lives. This new spiritual law of gravity has a threefold momentum: it calls us, gathers us and lifts us up.
The risen Christ calls us through those whom he sends to proclaim to us that now God is not just his Father but our Father too, that we are reconciled with God and with each other: “Go to my sisters and brothers and tell them: ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God’” (Jn 20.17).
Then he gathers, he 'congregates' us, in the sense that he makes us a congregation, a community. We behaved as enemies of God and of each other, but Christ becomes our peace, destroys “the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility” between us. Thus he brings our enmity and rivalry to an end: “He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit” (cf. Eph 2.12-18). With the ascension comes this new solidarity that allows us to help each other to return to the Father.
Finally, the risen Christ calls us and unites us to himself and with each other because this is the only way he can lift us up us towards the Father. He tells us: “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself.” (Jn 12.32). The force of gravity has been reversed: we are no longer drawn downwards by the countless failings and miseries of our lives but we are attracted towards the “things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” (Col 3.2).
This threefold movement of calling, gathering and lifting up is enacted each time we take part in the Eucharist. In the Eucharist we are called by the Word that encourages us, invites us to conversion, and touches our hearts. We can read Scripture in our homes, but we all gather together in the same place on Sundays because we cannot be reconciled with God unless we grow closer to each other, become one community, one body, by partaking the same bread and drinking the same cup. Thus we reach the doxology when the celebrant lifts up the body of Christ and the cup and says: "For Christ, with Christ and in Christ to you God the Father Almighty, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, every honor and glory for all ages ". We are part of the body of Christ, with him and in him we too are lifted up, we are united to Christ’s Ascension and enjoy our new freedom: we enter into the Father’s presence and dwell with him forever.