Skip to main contentAccessibility feedback

Dear catholic.com visitors: This website from Catholic Answers, with all its many resources, is the world's largest source of explanations for Catholic beliefs and practices. A fully independent, lay-run, 501(c)(3) ministry that receives no funding from the institutional Church, we rely entirely on the generosity of everyday people like you to keep this website going with trustworthy , fresh, and relevant content. If everyone visiting this month gave just $1, catholic.com would be fully funded for an entire year. Do you find catholic.com helpful? Please make a gift today. SPECIAL PROMOTION FOR NEW MONTHLY DONATIONS! Thank you and God bless.

Dear catholic.com visitors: This website from Catholic Answers, with all its many resources, is the world's largest source of explanations for Catholic beliefs and practices. A fully independent, lay-run, 501(c)(3) ministry that receives no funding from the institutional Church, we rely entirely on the generosity of everyday people like you to keep this website going with trustworthy , fresh, and relevant content. If everyone visiting this month gave just $1, catholic.com would be fully funded for an entire year. Do you find catholic.com helpful? Please make a gift today. SPECIAL PROMOTION FOR NEW MONTHLY DONATIONS! Thank you and God bless.

Background Image

Hope Until We Meet Again

On Ascension Thursday, God was good enough to give the apostles the theological virtue of hope

Shortly after our wedding, my wife flew to Chicago on a business trip. We knew that it was to our advantage that she go, but it was a sad parting at the airport all the same. Once her plane had disappeared beyond the clouds, I couldn’t stand it, I missed her so much. So I, never having visited Chicago before, hopped on a flight to the Windy City. The assurance that I would see my beloved again kept me joyful through all the aches and pains of air travel . . . but not joyful enough.

Today is Ascension Thursday, when we celebrate a sad parting—but also one of the most joyful in human history, because of what it promised.

There’s a touch of the Crucifixion’s sadness in the Ascension. In both cases, Jesus left the apostles, left us, left the world. But Jesus’ death sent the apostles scrambling with terror; his rising left them gaping (Acts 1:10) with awe and, later, jubilation (Luke 24:52-53).

When Jesus promised his followers that he would die, St. Peter contradicted him (Matt. 16:22). By the time he told them he’d leave them to be with the Father, they’d caught on, at least enough that there are no contradictions recorded there. But we can’t hold it against the apostles if they felt a little sad when Jesus told them he’d be going. Indeed, the way St. John tells it, he had to take pains to alleviate their sorrow: “It is to your advantage that I go away” (16:7).

They might have felt hopeless, too, because what is hope? The Catholic Encyclopedia calls it “a divine virtue by which we confidently expect, with God’s help, to reach eternal felicity as well as to have at our disposal the means of securing it.” Could there have been the divine virtue of hope among men before the Ascension? If so, it was new—Jesus had opened up heaven only at his Resurrection, forty days prior, and if the apostles were baptized by then, it was likely only recently. So the virtue of hope, God-given at baptism, might not have fit not so well yet. In any event, you could call the pre-Christian world hopeless and mean it literally. Thousands of years of that lay on the apostles’ shoulders when their teacher told them he was hitting the road.

Hope “is an infused virtue,” meaning that it is “directly implanted in the soul by almighty God.” Our Lord throughout his ministry may have been divinely infusing hope in ways his disciples couldn’t see, but his works visibly laid the ground for it. He tended not to make his followers do something without showing them first. He publicly cast out demons (Mark 1:26, 5:13, 9:25) and then empowered his disciples to exorcise (16:17). He showed them healing and then promised that they too would heal. And on the day of his ascension, he showed them—and us, through their witness—the path to heaven. All that remained for the apostles was to follow him, which they now could do, confidently expecting that eternal felicity.

Jesus didn’t have to rise up into the sky right in front of the apostles’ faces, but he did. What better way to instill their hope? It shows: immediately after Jesus left them, off they went, “continually in the temple blessing God” (Luke 24:53), and blessing him on and on through their own ministries and into gruesome martyrdoms for love of him.

Airplanes allow us to do our own little re-enactments of the Ascension. The script has its parallels: your beloved disappears into the clouds, and you stare up, slack-jawed, until some agent not even trying to pass himself off as a white-clad angel tells you to get a move-on, you’re clogging up the drop-off lane with your now suitcase-less and beloved-less car. Usually, you hope for your beloved to come back, confident that that return flight will show up at the scheduled (or, perhaps more likely, delayed) time.

That’s human hope. On a divine level, we wait for Christ to return, as the angels foretold (Acts 1:10-11)—but the Second Coming will not be pretty, and we can’t be blamed for preferring to be in heaven already at that point. And then there’s what the apostles did. With divine hope, they hopped to their feet and worked, confidently, with the spiritual means at their disposal, to reach eternal felicity with the ultimate beloved.

We faithful are like earnest children, arranging our lives for God as children draw pictures to impress their parents. In my little crayon picture, I raced to Chicago—cramped, famished, bedeviled for my half of the armrest, but delighted to walk those unknown streets with my wife of only a few months.
GET WHY WE’RE CATHOLIC!
Granted, it wasn’t exactly divine hope, nor is Chicago the best analogue for heaven, if we’re being honest. But marriage is a symbol of God, so God must have infused at least a spark of my desire to pursue my wife. More than I knew, it turned out: Anticipating a delightful weekend for two, I’d forgotten that marriage is a symbol of the trinitarian God. There, in Chicago, we learned we were expecting our son, and that was closer to heaven than anything I’d yet experienced.

On Ascension Thursday, God was good enough to give the apostles the theological virtue of hope, to fuel them on the path he showed them to something they knew they wanted but could not fully comprehend (1 Cor. 12). They knew, by the grace of God at the Ascension, that if they pursued him whom we should love above all others, they would attain not just what they knew and hoped for humanly, but also what they couldn’t know and yet still hoped for divinely.

When our loved ones leave us, and we miss them, and we hope so hard to be reunited with them, let’s remember the Ascension and the little pictures we draw for God. All our good acts, all our hopes, are ultimately a shadow of our hope for him, and it’s thanks to him on this very special Thursday that we know which way to go.

Did you like this content? Please help keep us ad-free
Enjoying this content?  Please support our mission!Donatewww.catholic.com/support-us