Some 25,000 people gathered in Vatican City’s Saint Peter’s Square today, Sunday May 21, 2023, to recite the Regina Coeli Marian prayer with the Pope and to hear his Sunday address. Given that today, in different parts of the world, the festivity of the Lord’s Ascension was being celebrated, the Holy Father focused his address on the meaning of this Solemnity, which implies Jesus resurrected in Heaven.
Here is his address in English, translated from the Italian original by the Holy See.
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Today, in Italy and many other countries, the Ascension of the Lord is celebrated. It is a feast we know well, but which can raise several questions — at least two. The first question: Why celebrate Jesus’s departure from the earth? It would seem that his departure would be a sad moment, not exactly something to rejoice over! Why celebrate a departure? First question. Second question: What does Jesus do now in Heaven? First question: Why celebrate? Second question: What does Jesus do in Heaven?
[1st Why Are We Celebrating?]
Why are we celebrating. Because with the Ascension, something new and beautiful happened: Jesus brought our humanity, our flesh, into Heaven — this is the first time — that is, He brought it to God.
That humanity that He had assumed on earth did not remain here. The risen Jesus was not a spirit, no. He had His human body, flesh and bones, everything. He will be there in God. We could say that from the day of the Ascension on, God Himself “changed” — from that point on, He is not only spirit, but such is His love for us that He bears our own flesh in Himself, our humanity! The place awaiting us is thus indicated; that is our destiny.
Thus wrote an ancient Father in the faith: “What splendid news! He who became man for us [. . . ] to make us His brothers, presents Himself as man before the Father to bear with Himself all those who are joined with Him” (St. Gregory of Nyssa, Discourse on the Resurrection of Christ, 1). Today, we celebrate “Heaven’s conquest” — Jesus, who returns to the Father, but with our humanity. And so, Heaven is already a little bit ours. Jesus has opened the door and His body is there.
[2nd What Does Jesus Do in Heaven?]
The second question: So, what does Jesus do in Heaven? He is there for us before the Father, continually showing our humanity to Him — showing Him His wounds. I like to think that Jesus, prays like this in front of the Father — making Him see His wounds. “This is what I suffered for humanity: Do something!” He shows the Father the price of our redemption. The Father is moved. This is something I like to think about. But think about it yourselves. This is how Jesus prays. He did not leave us alone. In fact, before ascending, He told us, as the Gospel says today, “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew Hebrews 7:25) for us. To make the Father see His wounds, for us. In a word, Jesus intercedes. He is in the best “place,” before His Father and ours, to intercede on our behalf.
Intercession is fundamental. This faith helps us too — not to lose hope, not to get discouraged. Before the Father, there is Someone who makes Him see His wounds and intercedes. May the Queen of Heaven help us to intercede with the power of prayer.