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Sunday, April 28, 2013

He Ascended into Heaven


This essay is taken from my book of Nicene Creed meditations (still under revision). You can find the older version here (link).
 
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Creed Statement: He Ascended into Heaven

 

While meeting with them, He enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem . . . but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." When He had said this, as they were looking on, He was lifted up, and a cloud took Him from their sight. (Acts 1:4,8,9)

Fear -- probably terror -- overwhelmed the disciples when the soldiers captured Jesus in the Garden. They fled before they could also be led away with their Master. Peter, following at a safe distance, denied three times he knew his best friend.

When Pilate crucified the Lord, their hopes derailed, only to rekindle three days later as Mary Magdalene shouted, “He’s risen! He’s alive!” – only to collapse again when they raced to the tomb and found it empty.

When the Lord appeared in the upper room, their hope soared once more – and plummeted forty days later as they watched Him leave. Surely, by now the disciples were weary of the emotional roller coaster.

Do you know about emotional dips and swerves and lifts? I do. I know how it feels to scan heaven in vain for answers to prayer. I know what it’s like, even in the midst of what should be a glorious celebration of the Mass, to fixate on my family losses, broken relationships or financial reversals.

I’d do much better to focus instead on the miraculous event taking place before my eyes as bread and wine transform into His body and blood. I should drop to my knees in awe, in fear and in reverence as He appears before me. I should, as the writer to the Hebrews encouraged his readers, fix my eyes on Jesus, “the author and perfecter of faith.” (Hebrews 12:2)

What must it have been like for the disciples to fix their eyes on Christ as He ascended, to see earth lose its hold on Him? What were they thinking? I think if I’d been there, I’d have dropped to my knees in awe, in fear -- and in sorrow to see Him leave. I’d have wondered how I could go on.

When we recite, “He ascended into heaven,” God gives us opportunity -- especially during times of loneliness and sorrow -- to go on. He beckons us to look with eyes of faith to the heavens, from where our help comes. The Holy Spirit trades our emotional derailment for His encouragement, our loss for His sufficiency, our defeat for His victory.

That’s a critically important point, and we should take care not to miss it. Sorrows, overwhelming as they may be, last only for a time, but the shout of victory is ours come morning (Psalm 30:5). Just as earth’s gravity could no more hold Christ than death could, sorrows hold us only to the extent we give them permission.

He is risen. He is ascended. He is sitting –now, at this moment – at the Father’s right hand. Unless and until we look beyond the bottom of our ride, we won’t recognize the personal significance of Christ’s ascension to the Father. We’ll settle for emotional derailment and defeat instead of the victory we have in the risen and ascended Savior.

“Lift up your heads, O gates, and be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in!” (Psalm 24:7)


Prayer: Hallelujah to the crucified One. Glory to the risen One. Adoration to the ascended One. Who is like You, Oh, Lord? Perfect in majesty, ever in unity with the Father and the Holy Spirit and ever present at our right hand. Amen.

end

2 comments:

Barb Schoeneberger said...

I hadn't thought to connect the Ascension with emotional roller coasters we all face. It is hard to see from the bottom. Inspiring post.

Richard Maffeo said...

Thank you, Barb. I guess I have been on too many of those roller coaster rides. But things are getting better. I think. ;)