Today we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who now sits at the right hand of the Father. It is of divine faith that the Lord rose bodily from the tomb, showing Himself to His disciples and returning to the Father, blessing them as He ascended. The Second Council of Lyons (1254) teaches: "The third day he rose from the dead by a true resurrection of the body. With the body of his resurrection and with his soul, he ascended into heaven on the fortieth day after the Resurrection" (The Church Teaches, Tan Books, 1973, N. 456).
If you deny the bodily Resurrection of Jesus Christ, as one Josef Ratzinger has done in his previous life as a theologian, saying: "The Resurrection cannot be an historical event in the same sense as was the Crucifixion…" (Josef Ratzinger, Principles of Catholic Theology, p. 186), then there can be no Ascension.
Ratzinger's position is a Modernist error. Among the propositions condemned by Pope St. Pius X in his "Syllabus Condemning the Errors of the Modernists" is this:
"The Resurrection of the Savior is not properly a fact of the historical order. It is a fact of merely the supernatural order (neither demonstrated nor demonstrable) which the Christian conscience gradually derived from other facts" (Lamentabile Sane, July 3, 1907).
One of the techniques of the modern biblical scholar most destructive to the faith is the historical-critical method, even if its limited use in the hands of authentic Catholic biblical scholars might be tolerated. This method consists of a search for the "historical Jesus" as opposed to the "Christ of faith," implying that the biblical stories are the result of what the human authors intended to convey, and not necessarily what actually happened. The end result has been that the miracles of the Lord are denied, including the bodily Resurrection and Ascension, His teachings are ignored, and His Church and its Sacraments undermined.
Think of what this does to the mystery of the Ascension! The story of the Apostles and other disciples looking up to Heaven and seeing the Lord disappear among the clouds is just a fabrication. The story of Peter and John at the empty tomb, the story of the weeping Mary Magdalene meeting the Risen Lord and embracing His feet, the story of Thomas putting his finger into the wounds of Our Lord, the story of Jesus sharing a meal of broiled fish and honeycomb with the Apostles - all fabrications, stories made up by the Church to make Jesus look good.
Then Jesus did not say, "A spirit does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have" (Luke 24: 39). Jesus did not teach His disciples for forty days after His glorious Resurrection. Jesus did not say to the Apostles: "Go into the whole world and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16: 15).
As you can see, the whole fabric of our faith falls apart if we deny the Scriptures. If we can't trust the Holy Bible, the word of God, to be a true, authentic and inerrant record of the things that Jesus, the Son of God, said and did during His life among us, then the Christian faith is undone, and the Catholic Church is a house built upon sand.
St. Paul speaks of such fools as we: "Now if Christ is preached as risen from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, neither has Christ risen; and if Christ has not risen, vain then is our preaching, vain too is your faith. Yes, and we are found false witnesses as to God, in that we have borne witness against God that he raised Christ - whom he did not raise, if the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, neither has Christ risen; and if Christ has not risen, vain is your faith, for you are still in your sins. Hence they also who have fallen asleep in Christ, have perished. If with this life only in view we have had hope in Christ, we are of all men the most to be pitied" (1 Corinthians 15:12-19).
Perhaps as a harbinger of horrors yet to come, the historical-critical method has now been used for the first time, openly, to backtrack from previous decrees of the popes and the councils that now prove to be embarrassing to the conciliar church. They were "historically conditioned" and were true for their time, but are no longer true today. Truth, it seems, is relative after all. And who do you suppose was the prelate who made use of the method in this case? None other than our Josef Cardinal Ratzinger, now known as Pope Benedict XVI, acting in his capacity as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith back in 2001. The matter concerned the lifting of condemnations made in 1887 against some forty propositions taken from the writings of Antonio Rosmini. Looked at from the point of view of the Church in 1887 they were false. But looking at them from our more modern and enlightened "Vatican II" point of view they are true. Are we now to ask, as Pilate did, "What is truth?" (Gregory Baum, "Ratzinger explains how condemnation was right then, wrong now," National Catholic Reporter, Jan. 25, 2002).
But we believe in the enduring word of God, of which St. John testifies:
"Many other signs also Jesus worked in the sight of His disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name" (John 20:30,31).
"If we believe the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater; for this is the testimony of God which is greater, that He has borne witness concerning His Son. He who believes in the Son of God has the testimony of God in himself. He who does not believe the Son, makes him a liar; because he does not believe the witness that God has borne concerning His Son" (1 John 5: 9,10).
I don't know who said it, but oh how it fits:
"We are what you once were.
We believe what you once believed.
We worship as you once worshipped.
If you were right then, we are right now.
If we are wrong now, you were wrong then."