First Point.—It is for Himself and for His own glory that Jesus triumphantly ascended to heaven. Bossuet says: "As a prince who has on hand a great war against a foreign nation quits his kingdom for a time to go forth and combat his enemies in their own country, and when the expedition shall have ended he shall return with superb display into the capital city of his own country, his followers and his chariots adorned by the spoils from the conquered people; so the Son of God, our King, wishing
to overthrow the reign of the demon who by an insolent usurpation was boldly declared the prince of the world, has Himself descended from heaven to earth to conquer this irreconcilable enemy. Having deposed him from his throne by arms of the weakest kind were they in other hands than His, there was nothing else to do than to return triumphantly to heaven, which is the place of His origin and the principal seat of His royalty." It is, then, Jesus marching royally to the throne of His glory whom you are now considering. What a grand and magnificent spectacle! How different He is on this day, the high and powerful Lord, from what you have hitherto seen Him? His departure from the earth is very different from His entrance into the world. Then He manifested Himself in His infirmity; He was little; He was born as the children of men are born; He, the King of heaven and earth, descended into a stable. We see Him weak, and His mother Mary carrying Him in her arms; He was subject to the needs of our body, and experienced hunger, thirst, fatigue, and sufferings. He was a man—not the primitive man, ruling the earth, happy, immortal; but, apart from sin, a man like to fallen man: that is to say, a man of sorrows, despised, beaten, outraged; a mortal man obliged to submit to an ignominious death, the death of the cross. Many of those who saw Him in that degradation did not know Him. Jerusalem remained indifferent when the Wise Men came to speak to Him; Samaria closed her gates against Him; Nazareth wished to cast Him from the high hills on which she was built, and the doctors of the law laughed at Him when He answered them. The Pharisees calumniated Him, the synagogues expelled Him, and the whole people cried out, "Crucify Him!" But today Jesus avenges His sacred humanity on all their degradations, all their outrages, and He manifests Himself glorious and triumphant in the eyes of the whole universe.
The cross of Jesus has ceased to be a scandal for the Jews. They wished for a glorious Messias. Is He, then, without glory—He who conquered death, and, having accomplished His mission on earth, returns to heaven in magnificence? He is more splendid than Solomon in all his glory, stronger than David in battles, more beautiful than Absalom in the flower of his youth, more holy than Enoch and Elias, who were taken up from earth. His body, which had been placed and sealed in a sepulchre, had undergone a glorious transformation; His face shone as the sun; His vestments were white as snow; His reed sceptre is changed to a sceptre of command; His crown of thorns is replaced by an aureola of light; at His feet are His disciples, and above His head legions of angels are descending: the earth is silent before Him, and the elements await His command; a docile cloud lowers about His feet, and He ascends—ascends into the heavens, leaving Judea, Bethlehem, Nazareth, and Calvary, and to take in exchange possession of the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of Sion, the kingdom of His Father! Arise, then, Lord, above the heavens, and let Thy glory shine throughout the whole earth. As for me, Lord Jesus, my King and my Master, I am proud of my name of Christian; on this day, especially, when Thou coverest all the humiliations of man with the strength and the omnipotence of God.
Second Point.—Jesus returns to heaven in our interest. It is, first, to prepare a place for us. The gates of heaven had been closed by the sin of Adam and no one could enter there, before the divine Mediator. Even the just of the Old Law, the Abels, the Abrahams, and the Jacobs, these men so famous in our sacred books for the splendor of their virtues and their lively faith, awaited in Limbo for the day of their deliverance; and it is today that they enter heaven with Jesus. Henceforth the gates of the Holy City are open to us: let immortal thanks be given to our blessed Saviour! He has marked out the way for us by His lessons, by His precepts, and by His examples while He lived on earth; to-day He has thrown the gates wide open for us. He is there our Precursor. From His sojourn of glory, He extends His hands to us and calls us to Him. He said to His apostles: "I go to prepare a place for you." But this place shall not be for us, except we merit it.
Jesus ascends to heaven, and there occupies a throne at the right hand of His Father, to serve us as Advocate and Intercessor before God. And so He quits the earth, but does not abandon us. In the sojourn of His glory He loves us still, and His blood pleads for us. As the always-living Mediator, He intercedes in our behalf. It is through Him we have access to the heavenly Father. By His prayers He gives to our prayers a value; by His thanksgiving, our gratitude is acceptable; by His oblations, our sacrifices are made worthy; by His sorrows, our penance is valuable; by His sufferings, our mortifications are efficacious; and by His expiations, our satisfaction is complete. It is in union with His merits that our feeble works become meritorious. The eternal Mediator between God and man continues in heaven the ministry which He exercised on the cross. It is He who has prompted St. John to say: "Be consoled, my children, and do not despair; if you have sinned, remember that you have in heaven an Advocate, who is all-powerful and who shall plead your cause before God."
Jesus has ascended to heaven to send us the Holy Ghost, whose mission it shall be to complete the work of redemption. The effusion of the Holy Spirit on earth, His visible descent on the apostles, are the recompense of the Passion of Jesus on the cross. He could not be given, therefore, until the Sovereign Priest had consummated His sacrifice in heaven. "For as yet the Spirit was not given, because Jesus was not yet given" (John vii.). Moreover, Jesus had formally declared that, "if I do not go, the Holy Spirit shall not come, but if I go, I shall send Him to you."
O my amiable Master, since Thy entrance into heaven must have such precious results, then quit this earth : enter heaven to fulfill there the ministry of Mediator; appease divine justice, which I have so often angered by my crimes, and grant me the grace of imitating Thee on earth, that I may possess Thee and contemplate Thee eternally in heaven.
Source: Short Instructions on the Feasts of the Year, Imprimatur 1897