Dearly beloved readers, in the name of the risen Christ, the Redeemer of the world and Lord of history, I convey warm Easter greetings to you. Through the grace of God, we sailed the waters of Lent and arrived safely at the shore of Easter. The joy of the Lord fills the hearts of all Christians for we are a people of the resurrection. Yes, we are “Alleluia People”. Over a period of fifty days, the Church will celebrate the triumph of Jesus over sin and death. Truly, it is that most exalted period in the life of the Church. During these days of Easter joy, profound meaning will be given to that mystery of faith we proclaim at Mass:
Save us, Saviour of the world,
For by your cross and resurrection,
You have set us free.
Indeed, we have been set free; we have been ransomed. And we have become citizens of heaven. The disobedience of Adam and Eve brought about the expulsion of man from the Garden of Eden. In some way, man lost his home. Humanity was held captive by sin and death while the damning effect was the separation of the pleasant communion between God and man.
A major event of the Easter calendar is the Ascension of the Lord – a celebration which comes up on Thursday, 30th May, 2019. It recalls the return of Jesus to the Father. Jesus’ ascension is a revelation of his status as Lord and Christ. As Ephesians 1:20-23; 4:8-10 will aver, through the ascension of Jesus above creation and his entry into heaven, he has achieved dominion over the whole of this creation, filling the whole universe with his presence.
The ascension of Jesus has a great implication for all of us, as we walk the face of the earth. Lionel Swain beautifully captures the connection between the ascension of Jesus and human destiny when he writes: Jesus’ ascension into heaven reveals the destiny which God intends for the rest of humankind. The faithful know that their true country is a heavenly one (Hebrews 11:16), that their homeland is heaven itself (Philippians 4:20). Moreover, united with their exalted Lord through faith and baptism, they are encouraged to look beyond this present life to their final destiny which is to appear with Christ in glory.
Benedict XVI, wraps the entire drama of the Ascension as he taught: ‘The meaning of Christ’s Ascension expresses our belief that in Christ the humanity that we all share has entered into the inner life of God in a new and hitherto unheard of way. It means that man has found an everlasting place in God.’ It would be a mistake to interpret the Ascension as ‘the temporary absence of Christ from the world.’ Rather, ‘we go to heaven to the extent that we go to Jesus Christ and enter into him.’ Heaven is a person: ‘Jesus himself is what we call “heaven.”
And so, my dear people of God, the goal of our life is to be alive with Jesus; to live in Jesus. For where Jesus is, there is heaven. We must never lose sight of this mission as we journey on earth. Sadly, some persons live their lives as though there were no destination in view. The quest for material possession and the evident greed among persons entrusted with positions of authority should call us to reflect on the mission and purpose of existence. Man cannot simply live for money; he cannot exist just for power or fame. These are very cheap goals of human existence. We must begin to set our sights on where Jesus is, on heaven.
I will like to conclude with the words of Pope Francis at the General Audience on Wednesday, 17 April 2013.
“Dear brothers and sisters, the Ascension does not point to Jesus’ absence, but tells us that he is alive in our midst in a new way. He is no longer in a specific place in the world as he was before the Ascension. He is now in the lordship of God, present in every space and time, close to each one of us. In our life we are never alone: we have this Advocate who awaits us, who defends us. We are never alone: the Crucified and Risen Lord guides us. We have with us a multitude of brothers and sisters who, in silence and concealment, in their family life and at work, in their problems and hardships, in their joys and hopes, live faith daily and together with us bring the world the lordship of God’s love, in the Risen Jesus Christ, ascended into Heaven, our own Advocate who pleads for us.
In the joy of Easter, I pray God’s abundant protection upon you and your family. At the end of our earthly existence, may we be with Jesus for all eternity. Amen.
† Alfred Adewale Martins
Archbishop of Lagos
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