Forty days after the Resurrection, Jesus ascended into Heaven to sit at the right hand of God. This was the fulfillment of His work of redemption. When He elevated Himself, in His humanity, all the souls of the just who went before were brought with Him into glory. He intercedes always for us, and has opened for us the gates of Heaven. This is a fulfillment of the whole of salvation history. The New Testament fulfilling the Old, in which there are many types and foreshadows of this journey to fulfillment.
The number forty appears many times throughout Scripture, often associated with a promise fulfilled. It rained for 40 days and 40 nights, lifting the Ark up and saving those who were inhabited within it. Forty days after the water receded, Noah sent out the raven, and then the rainbow appeared which signified the great promise of God. The Israelites were fed manna in the desert for forty years before being led to the Promised Land. Moses spent forty days and nights on Mt. Sinai, returned the people, destroyed the golden calf idol and then fasted forty days and nights, writing the Ten Commandments on the tablets. Goliath spent forty days threatening the Israelites before David was victorious over him. Jonah preached to Nineveh for forty days before they repented and were saved. And of course, for forty days after His baptism in the Jordan, Jesus fasted and prayed and was tempted before beginning His public ministry.
The Catechism reminds us that while Jesus’ human body was glorified at the Resurrection, He retained the veil of “ordinary humanity” while he visited with his disciples, eating and drinking with them and teaching them about the Kingdom of God. Before ascending, Jesus gave His disciples the great commission, a word taken from the Latin root, missa. (The word Mass also derives from the Latin missa.) Christ exhorted His disciples to make disciples of all nations and to baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. At His Ascension, Jesus Christ fulfilled the vision of Daniel and began the kingdom of the Messiah, about which the Angel Gabriel had announced to Mary, “of His kingdom there will be no end.”
And now, we await His coming in glory to judge the living and the dead. This is a tenet of our faith. The Catechism also teaches that before Christ’s coming in glory, the Church will undergo a trial which will shake the faith of many believers. Persecution will unveil the mystery of iniquity, the spirit of the Antichrist, in which man “glorifies himself in place of God” and believes himself to be in control of all. We can guard against this by acknowledging the power and kingship of Our Lord, who holds the victory over evil, placing our trust in Him and in the promised triumph of the Lady who crushes the head of the serpent.
April 17, 2015