We tend to think along a sequence, especially when it comes to the passing of time. One hour follows another; one year follows another, and so on and so on. Ever since most of us had a watch of our own, the passing of time becomes noticeable to us. We glance at watches and clocks all the time.
The life of Jesus can easily appear to be one event following another. Lately in the liturgical year, we have been following how after the events of Holy Week came the His resurrection, then came His various appearances, and now we come to His Ascension, and next week we shall celebrate Pentecost, the sending of the Holy Spirit.
But what if in Jesus Christ, and in some mysterious way also in us, eternity has become mingled with our earthly kind of time? What if some events that happen in our lifetime last forever? Not that we human beings could bring about such a thing by our own power. For on our own we humans are made and unmade in time.
However, let us look at Jesus. By His Ascension we don’t mean that He used to be God up in heaven, that He then lived among as a man for about 33 years, and then following His resurrection He ascended back into heaven as the God He had been all along but had put aside for a while. Jesus would then start to look like some kind of meteorite that came from outer space, appeared briefly on our planet, and then went away again to some far off, inaccessible place.
By His Ascension, by being taken up into heaven, Jesus has changed how we humans live in time, not just how He lives. Jesus has sanctified time, made it holy, livable by God’s rhythm. He has given its flow a clear direction, a definite end (in every sense of this last word). Jesus’ time on earth came to an end, and so has our time started to end. We are no longer in the succession of time as we used to be. Already the times they are changing, and will be completely changed when Christ comes again in glory to transform everything definitively.
This is the certain hope of renewal and transformation, knowledge revealed to us that the old things are passing away and that everything is being made new. It is in this hope that Christians can spend their lives in doing good, not afraid that goodness will be undone and blotted out by the passing of time. Glad too that the evil done in the past can be repented and forgiven.
Unbelievers may doubt that anything or anyone can last beyond time. Yet the Christian believer does indeed believe that the good done, the virtues lived out, and the person we become by God’s grace will not be dissolved by the unstoppable passage of time. Life is not a succession of moments that don’t add up to anything.
By His Ascension at the right-hand of God, Jesus, as it were, has made a human space within God and His kingdom for us to be welcomed into. Already we are welcomed, although we do not yet dwell there fully or with absolute certainty. Already this union with God happens when we live in the supernatural virtues of faith, hope and charity. This union is precarious because while in this world of time we can be sinful as well as virtuous. The ascended Jesus gives to humanity the time and the space to flourish here and forever.
Eventually, please God, we too shall be taken up into heaven and resurrected beyond the reach of time and its uncertainties.