The big news story in the wake of the Local and European elections held last week has been the rise of the far left and far right in various parts of Europe. The ascension to power of those who are dissatisfied with modern European society and the direction it is taking threatens the status quo. This might not be such a bad thing. If the new political landscape inspires in us a collective examination of conscience about who we are and how we are to live together in community, this election will have been a success.
There is another, more important ascension that we as believing Christians assent to every Sunday at Mass. We claim that ‘He (Jesus) ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father’ each time we recite the Creed. It is a fact largely ignored in our post-Christian society and yet this heavenly perspective must somehow shape any authentic examination of conscience, whether collective or individual. If it does not, the dissatisfaction of a divided human society that has expelled God from its version of paradise will reappear time and time again. The European project has all the marks of a Tower of Babel, striving for the sky but creaking unsteadily under the weight of its own expectation. Its foundations are unsure. There is something missing.
Contemplating our Lord’s ascension and viewing our earthly affairs in relation to their eternal significance puts perspective on how we live, vote and build societies here on earth. Or at least it should. Faith in God is not something distinct from our everyday lives – it is the salt that flavours it. If our new band of Councillors and M.E.P.’s cannot see that, we Christians need to help them. ‘Go therefore, make disciples of all nations’ we are told (Matthew 28:19). We have been commissioned by the Lord to help people realise there is a bigger game afoot. That is our job as witnesses to this authentic Christian understanding of human existence. Our assent to God has to shape our choice of who ascends to the echelons of political power and ultimately, our own hopes of ascending to heaven with Him.
Gospel Reflection for the Ascension of our Lord – Year A (Matthew 28:16-20)