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 | By Cristina Sullivan

What is Jesus doing at the right hand of the Father?

When we celebrate the feast of Christ’s ascension, 40 days have passed since his resurrection. We know that Christ was already glorified, however, that glorification was still veiled by his corporeality, by that physical means of showing himself to the world to be recognized by his disciples.

The resurrected Christ showed himself to his disciples in the flesh as an act of mercy — his nature had already surpassed the mortal body in which he became incarnate. And Christ attained the ultimate glory of his resurrection when he ascended into heaven and where he now sits at the right hand of the Father.

What does this mean? What is Jesus doing at God’s right hand? In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “we understand the glory and honor of divinity, where he who exists as Son of God before all ages, indeed as God, of one being with the Father is seated bodily after he became incarnate and his flesh was glorified” (663). God-made-man is seated in the place where the Trinity dwells after his flesh was glorified through his self-giving on the cross. The Son returned after fulfilling the Father’s will in fullness and perfection. He ascended with his humanity and corporeality because both are part of his nature: Christ is true God and true man.

Seated does not mean Jesus remains static, though. Christ intercedes in heavenly glory on our behalf before the Father, showing his humanity and pouring out his Divine Mercy. Being at the right hand of the Father, Christ sends us his Spirit, continually pouring that Spirit into us.

It also means he shares full intimacy in the bosom of the Trinity. Christ is carrying out a salvific action of reigning with and from his humanity. He restored mankind and our fallen nature, became our King and reigns from heaven together with the Father and the Holy Spirit. It means the Trinity is pouring itself out so that we may have a new life that provides us with the hope of one day arriving with him. This hope allows us to continue working for the kingdom of heaven and to embrace our cross because we know the Resurrection is assured.

There are no longer boundaries between the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of earth because Christ defeated the separation that sin created. Now death has been conquered and that frontier has disappeared.

In 1933, Sister Faustina Kowalska was given an incredible vision of God’s mercy. “I saw a great light, with God the Father in the midst of it. Between this light and the earth I saw Jesus nailed to the Cross and in such a way that God, wanting to look upon the earth, had to look through Our Lord's wounds. And I understood that God blessed the earth for the sake of Jesus.”

Jesus Christ is continually pouring out his grace, and his grace translates into hope in us: the hope of attaining the fullness for which our hearts were made, the hope of that destiny which has been inaugurated with Jesus Christ in opening to us the gates of paradise, which had been closed with the expulsion of our first parents, Adam and Eve. That’s what it means when we say Jesus is the firstborn from the dead: he was the first to enter into glory, and now we hope to share with him in that same glory.

In the Gospel of John, we find the following proclamation of Christ to Mary of Magdala: “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God’” (Jn 20:17). Mary Magdalene is the messenger not only of the Resurrection but also of the Ascension, the two realities that demonstrate the glory of God. In addition, another passage speaks of what will happen at the time of the Ascension: “And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself” (Jn 12:32). That “lifted up” refers to crucifixion and Ascension, and being in heaven draws us to his mercy and also to his glory.

On this feast, let us receive the glory that Christ longs to share with us. Let us learn, like Mary Magdalene, to be messengers of divine glory; let us allow the gift of the Holy Spirit to dwell in us; let us share the joy of the Resurrection and the hope of eternal life, a life that begins when we are called to the glory of God. He is waiting for us on the heavenly throne and is eager for us to turn to him starting now, with a heart open to his gifts.

Cristina Umaña Sullivan is a cultural sociologist who has been dedicated to evangelization for more than 10 years with a specialty in Theology of the Body and identity creation from a Christian perspective. Email her at