From Magnificat’s May 2018 ‘A Light Unto My Path’
Feast of the Ascension by Bishop Robert Barron
I fear that for many Christians, the Ascension implies that Jesus has gone, essentially, “up, up, and away”—that he is now at a far remove from this world. Nothing could be further from the truth. Think of a military commander from, say, the Civil War period. He would endeavor to find the high ground on any field of battle, so that he might survey the entire situation and thus provide more efficacious leadership.
Through the Ascension, Jesus has achieved, as it were, a higher point of vantage, a position from which he can direct the work of his Mystical Body, the Church. It is of signal importance that the Acts of the Apostles commences with a description of the Ascension of the Lord, for what the rest of that text lays out is the manner in which the ascended Jesus coordinates the efforts of his disciples as they go about their ministry. He has not abandoned his Church; he has entered more deeply into its life and work.
It might be useful in this context to say just a word about heaven. Again, we tend to be misled if we literalize spatial metaphors. We poetically indicate the reality of heaven with images of clouds and sky, and these are meant to signal how heaven transcends our world. But this should not be construed as though heaven is geographically far away. On the bibilical reading, heaven is a dimensional system that impinges most intimately on ours, even as it lies beyond. It is from this “place” that the Risen and ascended Jesus acts as Lord of the Church.