But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. Acts 1:8-9
Today is forty days after Easter, the day we recall Jesus’s Ascension to God. Ascension reinforces our view that heaven somehow is “up there”, and yet Jesus has taught us the Kingdom of God is here and now. It is within us, and all around us in this world in which we are incarnate beings. It is beyond us, more amazing and all-encompassing than our human selves can imagine. How do we live in the midst of such knowledge?
First, let us recall that the “up there” includes the here and now and our own lives. Jesus ascending left his incarnate self behind while still honoring the incarnate and post-resurrected self. As incarnate beings we are loved, cherished and called forth. As incarnate beings we, too, shall leave our incarnation behind one day and return to God who made us and to a love stronger than we can picture, feel or grasp.
Meanwhile, let’s get on with this incarnate living in all its messiness, uncertainty and mixture of sorrow and joy.
Second, we get on with it by welcoming the gift of the Holy Spirit and by developing and using the eyes of our heart. In this I find St. Paul’s prayer for us in Ephesians 1 to be most helpful:
I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.
- May the resurrection have removed the armor from our hearts so that we may know most deeply that love indeed does conquer all, and vulnerability and humility contain a strength and power we see best with our hearts.
- May the incarnate life and ministry of Jesus become clearer in our hearts as we discover again and again the perfect freedom in service.
- May the ascension, the gift of the Spirit, and Jesus’s longing to return to God remind us how deeply we can rest in love even as we get on with the incarnate life we have been given.
- May all this remove fear, anxiety, lassitude, self-focus and all that prevents our hearts from soaring with the Ascension.
- May the eyes of our hearts be enlightened that we may know the hope and life to which Jesus calls us.