Ascension Thursday reflection

One of my favorite lines in all of the scriptures occurs in today’s first reading (Acts 1:1-11).  As Jesus is taken up from the apostles’ sight, two angels appear in the sky and ask a question: “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky?”

Now on the surface, the answer would seem obvious.  Logical.  Isn’t that the direction in which Jesus went?

Well, it would be if the risen Christ still moved within the limits of time and space. These are limits that defined the life of Jesus of Nazareth as they have every other human being before or since.  You and I can only be in one place at any given time,  no matter how much we would like to be elsewhere.  And while we have some choice where we wish to be in space – a tropical island, the ballpark, Mt. Everest, my backyard – there’s only one moment we can occupy in time – the present one.  Even when we so much wish we could spend just one more moment in the presence of a loved one who has gone  before us into eternal life.

The risen Christ, however, faces no such limitations – that’s the mystery of the Resurrection.  Freed from the limitations of time and space, the risen Christ can be fully present at every moment and in every place.  To look for Jesus up in the sky is to still think he lives within the cramped physical dimensions that we do.  And to miss the heart of the liberation that Jesus of Nazareth proclaimed during his earthly ministry.

St. John Chrysostom, a leading bishop and theologian in the early Church, put it this way:  “They whom we Love and lose are no longer where they were before.  They are now wherever we are.”  And one day, when we complete our passage begun at baptism from death to life through the resurrection of Jesus, we will know exactly what St. John means.

Jim Philipps (3rd millennium pilgrim)

(To read book-length collections of my scriptural reflections, go to www.twentythirdpublications.com)

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