Gospel reading for The Ascension and a Reflection

Then Jesus said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’

 

The Ascension of Jesus

Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.

 

Reflection

We live in a world where up is better than down. Students want to be at the top of the class. Singers at the top of the charts. We would all rather have an up day than a down day. We work to climb the career ladder not to descend it. There is something deep within our human DNA which drives us to “rise to the top”- to live ascended lives. We all want to break free from the things which hold us down and to rise above it all.

There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, it is right. Something within us knows that we are more than earthbound creatures. The problem is that we have distorted what ascension and an ascended life mean. We forget, or perhaps deny, that Christ’s ascension seats humanity next to God and so we settle for attempted “self-ascension”.

This distortion has infected our theology and understanding of God. In this distorted view God, heaven and holiness are “up there” somewhere while we are stuck down here. So we spend our time a bit like small children thinking that if we jump high enough and hard enough we can touch the moon. This gets lived out in so many unhealthy ways. It almost always involves comparison, competition and judgement of some kind. We compete with each other believing that for us to ascend the other must descend or at least not jump as high as us. We are forever judging ourselves and one another. We fill our lives with busyness hoping to climb to new heights. But a life of self-ascension will always keep us searching for the next high.

Jesus’ ascension reshapes our disfigured understanding of an ascended life. His ascension is the antidote to the fragmentation and separation of “self-ascension”. It is only through Him that we can live truly ascended lives.

Jesus’ ascension is not about his absence but about his presence. It is not about his leaving but about his lifting of our humanity to God. The ascension of Jesus completes the resurrection. The resurrection is victory over death. The ascension, however, lifts humanity up to heaven. Jesus’ ascension seats human flesh, your flesh and my flesh, at the right hand of God the Father. Through it we now partake of God’s glory and divinity.

So the ascension is more about letting go than it is about reaching and grasping. The question for us is not “How do we ascend?” that has already been accomplished. The question for us is “What pulls us down?” What do we need to let go of? For some it will be fear, fear of not succeeding in their career. For some it will be anger or resentment when cherished plans have failed. For others it will be indifference or apathy. Gravity takes many forms but it always holds us down, keeps us back from fully living and sharing in the ascended life of Jesus.

Our participation in Jesus’ ascension begins not by looking up but by looking within.
 
Fr Christopher

 


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