Why did Jesus depart from us and ascend to the Father if he truly loved us? He did so, first, so that His human existence, which began with the Incarnation, might be brought to completion. Although He appeared to different people for 40 days after His death and resurrection, it is not the ordinary course of human nature to continue on this earth after death. His ascension has also a divine dimension – returning to the Father was the natural state for the Son. Going further, Jesus ascended to the Father so that through faith we might freely choose to follow Him and thereby come to the fullness of our human dignity, and come to salvation. “We know that we’re at home in the body, we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:6-7). The Ascension of Christ, thus, brings before us the mystery of Christ’s victory over sin and death and His exaltation at the right hand of the Father. At the same time it invites us to use the beautiful gift of freedom, itself a reflection of God’s nature, to choose to draw ever nearer to the one on whose image we were made and to whose image we are destined to return.
Jesus tells the disciples not to be troubled, but to have faith in Him. We have plenty of things to be troubled about. The good things of life are so fragile and so short-lived, like health, security, marriage and family, friendships, peace of mind. There is also the profound and pervasive fear of death which can take the life out of life. To hear the words of Jesus, “Do not let your hearts be troubled” is the liberating good news that we can live and work in a fragile and violent world and not be overcome. Jesus, too, experienced things which trouble the human heart: misunderstanding, rejection, betrayal, abandonment, torture and dying. Yet in the deepest center of His heart Jesus was still able to know peace and joy because of His trust that He lived in the Father as the Father lived in Him and did His work through Him. Jesus offers us this liberating faith. We too can trust that with Jesus we live in the Father as the Father lives in us and does even greater work through us. So even in the troubling circumstances of our lives we will know the peace and joy which is beyond understanding, and which nothing in this world can take from us.