What Forrest Gump Can teach you about the Ascension

What Forrest Gump can teach you about the Ascension


One of my all-time favorite movies is Forrest Gump. I could probably write a book on Forrest Gump and what he reveals to us. One of the scenes I thought about for The Ascension was the scene where he was running. Do you remember the scene where Forrest is sitting on the front porch and he is grieving the loss of his mother? His mother has died. Bubba has died. Jenny is nowhere to be found. Who knows where Jenny is at this point. Forrest finds himself just in grief. Above all, he is thinking about Jenny. He starts to run. He just begins to run first to the end of his street. When he gets to the end of his street, he thought “Well, I’ll keep running.” Then he runs to the end of the city. Then he runs to the end of the great state of Alabama. Then he figures he might as well keep running. He keeps running and gets all the way to the ocean. When he gets to the ocean, he thinks to himself “Well I got to the ocean. I might as well turn around and keep running.” So he ran back. You hear the narrative in his mind, and he says “I have run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” Then he stops running, not realizing there is a whole crowd of disciples that had gathered, running after him. There are 40 or 50 people that were just running for the cause. They did not even know what the cause was, but they wanted to be part of it. They are running after Forrest, wanting to find out where he is going to lead them. Then he stops, and he says “Mama always said you need to put the past behind you before you can move on. I think that is what my run was.” He stops running. He turns around and he looks at them and he says “I think I’ll go home now.” Then he goes home and that is it. The disciples that had gathered around him running are left completely confused. They are staring at him like “That is it? You are just going to go home?”

The same kind of thing happens with Jesus. During the time of The Resurrection, He is not only running, but He is going all over the place showing people His resurrected form. Revealing to them that He has conquered death and is risen. He is not only doing it to some people. He showed Himself to – we hear in some passages – hundreds of people, and thousands of people, got to experience Jesus in the Resurrected form. We never got to experience His actual moment of rising from the dead. I think that was just an intimate moment between Him and the Father. Humanity did experience The Ascension. It was actually a witnessed experience of Jesus ascending into heaven in the bodily form, taking His Body into heaven. I think at the end of His time, of Jesus revealing Himself and running all over, trying to show everybody the Resurrected life, he just stopped and He said “Well, I think it is time to go home now.” Then He went home to the heavenly Father.

He doesn’t leave us confused. He doesn’t leave us lost. He doesn’t leave us without a purpose. He doesn’t actually even leave us. Because, as we hear at the end of The Gospel, “Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the ages.” We heard it in the opening prayer. You will hear it again in The Preface that “Where the Head has gone, where Jesus has gone, the Body will follow.” What is His Body? It is the Church. How do we still experience Jesus today? How is He present with us today? In your body, in your blood, in your presence, Jesus is with us.

Jesus does not leave us confused. As a matter of fact, He does not leave us at all. He takes us with Him in The Ascension. When He ascends, when He came down in the beginning, and He took on human flesh, God took on humanity. That same humanity is now drawn to divinity, to our heavenly Father. He takes your humanity with Him. The only way that we can experience this “Heaven on Earth” is by remaining in union with Him. The only way we can remain in union with Jesus is by remaining in union with the Church. That is why He gives this great commission, “Go, therefore, to all nations, baptizing all nations in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And behold, I will be with you always.” It is through His Body now the Church. That is our great commission, to find as many people as we can because we want to bring them with us. We want to have them experience this heaven that Jesus wants for us. He is already ascended. He is already there. He is drawing all of us there. He is going to bring with us whoever we can baptize and to whom we can proclaim the word. First of all, it is so important we realize that reality. Do you realize that you are the Body of Christ? You are united with Him. If He is with God the Father right now, and you are united with Him, you in some way experience The Ascension.

A few years ago, a family took me on a vacation. We were in Aruba and they got one of those fly boards. These are things you take out in the ocean. You strap this board to your feet, and you are hooked to a jet ski. It sounds crazy, but it is an awesome experience. It looks like a wake board. You are sitting on the water and all of a sudden the person that is on the jet ski pushes the throttle. You are connected to it by a tube of water. Suddenly you are thrust up into the air. I was standing like this, and before I knew it, I was going five, ten, fifteen, twenty, thirty feet in the air! Just ascending above everybody. It was an amazing experience. But it was nothing I could do on my own. The reality is we cannot experience this on our own. It is only through Jesus. As you receive the Eucharist today, just ask Him for that grace. Ask Him to experience that union with Him, so that we can also experience The Resurrection. Then we can stop running in this life, and ultimately be at home with our heavenly Father.

About the Author Fr. Michael Denk

Fr. Michael was ordained into priesthood in the Diocese of Cleveland on May 12, 2007. He is dedicated to helping others encounter Christ through the celebration of the Eucharist, preaching, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, spiritual direction, and prayer.

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I'm Father Michael J. Denk, a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland. I am a contributor of content to The Prodigal Father Productions, Inc., a non-profit corporation functioning in accord with the traditions and the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. The corporation and I are separate, it doesn't speak for me, the parish, or on behalf of the Diocese of Cleveland, and I do not speak for it.