Sunday Readings: Acts 1.1-11; Ephesians 1.17-23; Mark 16.15-20
“Go into the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation.” – Mark 16.15
Theologically the Feast of the Ascension celebrates the risen Jesus’ return to God — the culmination of the paschal mystery and promise of our own life with God. In Sunday’s first reading Jesus says farewell to his disciples, is lifted up, and a cloud takes him from sight. In the gospel Jesus is taken up and sits down at the right hand of God.
Up is where God is in the ancient world. Up still represents the highest position, the top rung, the penthouse suite, the upper echelon, the seat of power. We lobby for public policies that lift people out of poverty. Upward mobility expresses power and achievement. The ladder of success goes up.
The view of Earth from space, however, has pushed us to revise our images of the heavens above as God’s home and throne. As astronauts have circled Earth, they see the thin blue line of atmosphere that shelters us from the limitless space. The cosmos appears a vast, dark unknown rather than God’s paradise in the clouds as it does from Earth.
Indeed rocket liftoffs are not the only way we free ourselves of gravity and all that weighs us down. Lifting up can also express movement into solidarity with others. We lift up people and their needs in prayer. We identify with their needs.
In returning to God, the risen Jesus does not come apart at some seam that holds his humanity and divinity together. Jesus remains God incarnate, the firstborn of a new humanity that shares transforming life with God. The promise of Christian faith is the communion with God to which Jesus returns.
What is an experience that has lifted you up? How do you imagine communion with God?