When he had said this, as they were looking on,
he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.
While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going,
suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them.
They said, “Men of Galilee,
why are you standing there looking at the sky?
This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven
will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.”
Deacon Greg’s homily for the day:
It is tempting on this feast of the Ascension to experience it the way the apostles did, to gaze into the heavens and to ponder the clouds and to pray over the miracle of this great moment.
But Christ’s words to his apostles are words to us all. ‘Go.’ The world will not be converted on a mountaintop. The message will not be spread in the clouds. It will happen in the streets and the synagogues, in public squares and private homes, in books and newspapers and media of all kinds. It needs to be lived in the world.
Dorothy Day once wrote: “Our faith is stronger than death, our philosophy is firmer than flesh, and the spread of the Kingdom of God upon the earth is more sublime and more compelling.”
So, do not stay too long on the mountain. The Kingdom of God is waiting to be spread. Sooner or later, we all must turn our eyes from the heavens, and direct them to the earth, and walk back into the world.
Sooner or later, we have to go and make disciples of all nations.
Meanwhile Pat Gohn has a good piece of catechesis on this Holy Day, that takes another tact:
“. . .while all this talk of the Church’s role in carrying on the work of the kingdom in this glorious sequel is important—in that we see the necessity of the Christian mission—it is imperative to realize that Jesus’ Ascension never signaled a departure or separation from the first disciples or his Church on earth today.
Jesus’ Ascension was a needed turning point in God’s plan so to bring on this final age—the one in which we still live. His leave-taking ascent ushered Jesus to his exalted majesty, seated at the right hand of the Father.
Father Robert Barron, in this brief audio homily discusses the “event horizon” — where our dimension of space and time faces his transcendent dimension, and how with the Ascension, Jesus has “definitively passed out of our dimension of space and time into the dimension of God’s way of being,” and explains why this is important to us in our own lowly human natures — hint; it means that we too can aspire to a similar transcendence.
It’s a really good talk, and Barron manages to bring aspects of both Deacon Greg’s and Pat Gohn’s pieces, and tie it up into one marvelous whole. Don’t miss it.
Speaking of Fr. Robert Barron, a few days ago I tied his piece on The Ascension, Plato and the Bible into my column at First Things, and explored the idea of heaven and earth in a constant state of commingling:
. . .this oneness Father Barron describes when he writes of the “interacting and interpenetrating fields of force” that are heaven and earth, constantly commingling, and within the church embodying a true encounter between bridegroom and bride. That is considered archaic language, I know — Flannery O’ Connor called it “a metaphor that can be dispensed with” — but the brilliant Ms. O’ Connor was uncharacteristically off the mark in her observation to Cecil Dawkins, both in her dismissiveness and in calling what is a real and daily action nothing but metaphor.
If we could reclaim the metaphor of the bride and groom we might be better able to teach the very dogmas that O’ Connor championed so passionately, and which are every day a little less comprehensible to most Christians. For that matter, if we were less prudish about acknowledging the interplay between heaven and earth as lovemaking, our over-saturated and exhausted culture of hook-ups and sterile encounters might become reopened to the true meaning of the sex act and to a re-appreciation of its light-from-light power.
If Heaven and Earth are in constant flux, then the Ascension becomes less incomprehensible and so, too, the dogmas of the Assumption and the Immaculate Conception. In fact, they are even more fully understood in the light of yet another dimension of the divine spark within humanity: science.
Off-topic, but not really: Rocco Palmo on the Today Show at the Vatican. I dunno, it just struck me as funny, that’s all — that on a Holy Day where we consider the entirety of the world in all of its dimensions, they showcase the church via the Vatican.