Friends, today is the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord. After his Resurrection, Jesus continued to appear to his disciples for a time—the standard biblical frame of forty days—and then stopped. The Ascension of Jesus signals the definitive end of these post-Resurrection appearances and the commencement of Jesus’ operation from the properly heavenly sphere.
It is crucial to remember, however, that this distantiation by no means amounts to an abandonment, but rather to an even more intense form of intimacy. To move into heaven, or the divine manner of existence, is not to move to another place but to that arena of existence that stands outside of space. Paul Tillich refers to God’s Überräumlichkeit (over-spacedness), and he insists that this transcendence to any particular space implies the capacity to be present to every space. This is what we mean when we say that God is “everywhere.”
Therefore, to say that Jesus has “ascended” to that sphere of existence is not to say that he has “gone away.” It is to assert, if I can adopt a military metaphor, that he has journeyed to a higher point of vantage, where he can see the entire field of battle and direct operations more efficaciously.