A friend recently shared with me a story about his childhood that helped me to better understand the significance of the Ascension in our lives. My friend grew up in Chile. When he was about 10 years old, his father took on a new job and moved to the United States. The plan was that his dad would begin working in the United States while making preparations so that the rest of his family could immigrate there after one year. My friend explained how incredibly difficult it was for him to say goodbye to his father at the airport when he left for the United States. He was not thinking ahead to the fact that he would see his father again soon enough. As a 10 year old boy, the only thing that he had in his mind was that he would not be with his dad for one year. This seemed like an eternity to him. At the time it felt like his father had abandoned him and his family.
After some time, his dad got settled in the United States. He used the money from his pay cheques to start making preparations for the rest of his family to join him. In addition, he sent some cash from his paycheck back to Chile each month. My friend explained that after his father moved to the United States, their lives in Chile immediately improved because of the money his dad was sending them. Finally after one year, the rest of his family immigrated to the United States. This move drastically changed my friend’s life for the better. He was able to get a great education and eventually discovered his vocation to the priesthood in this new country. In the beginning, my friend had viewed his father’s move as an abandonment. In the end, he learned that, in spite of the huge sacrifice, his father needed to separate himself from his family for a time in order to make a better life for them.
At the Ascension we can all feel a bit like my friend when his father left for the United States. We can feel abandoned when Jesus ascends to heaven. Would it not be better if He had stayed here with us? Whenever we needed Him, we could simply go to Him. After the Ascension, Jesus can feel so distant. We too can feel abandoned. This is far from the truth. Like my friend’s father, Jesus has gone before us to prepare for us a new, better life. Eventually we will experience this life to the full when we “immigrate” to God our Father in heaven. Even before this day, however, Jesus is making our lives better. He too is sending some cash from his paycheck back home to improve our lives. The greatest gift that Jesus sends to us now is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is already transforming our lives here and now. It is this gift that we celebrate and remember each Pentecost. The Ascension is necessary because Jesus wanted to create for us a better life.