May 16: Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord
Posted by Campus Ministry on Sunday, May 16, 2021 at 4:12 PM PDT
This reading from the Gospel of Mark, in which Jesus is taken up by God into heaven marks his final ‘instructions’ to the apostles. As we know, Jesus was an excellent educator—he knew his followers had many different learning styles long before scholars began theorizing about this in the 1990s. His was the ‘pedagogy of try everything’, and often the disciples are depicted in the scripture as being the last ones to ‘get it’. He exhorted, told parables, went to dinner with tax collectors, washed the disciples feet. He creatively showed the disciples his message, transforming their understanding of God through his relationship with them. He lays out very clearly how they are to proceed on this final journey in their presence. Their status has changed from disciples (the learners) to apostles (the ones who are sent forth). And, true to form, we are presented with an image of these newly missioned apostles ‘standing there looking at the sky’. I’m reminded of the vintage film, “An Affair to Remember” when the leading lady is struck by a car while crossing the street on her way to meet her lover waiting at the top of the Empire State Building. She says, ‘it was my fault, I was looking up, it was the nearest thing to heaven!’ Obviously, she should not have been looking at the sky. Similarly, the apostles should not have been looking at the sky to find out where Jesus had gone.
The writer of the letter entreats the readers to look around them to see with ‘eyes of the heart’ in order to follow the mission, the call of Jesus. What do the eyes of the heart see? These eyes don’t scan the heavens to find Jesus. The eyes of the heart try to see where Christ is present all around. Looking for opportunities to follow the mission, to answer the call. This synchronizes with the teaching of St. Ignatius: our task, as Christians, is to seek God in all things. We are not asked to seek with the eyes that only find God where they expect to find God, to see exactly what they want see. Instead, the eyes of the heart seek beyond the familiar and below the expected. Enlighted by God, the eyes of the heart go to the places that people and society submerge under the surface, hiding and forgetting. The opportunities are all around us to see with the eyes of the heart. Some are common to all of us--systemic oppression of those in the margins of our world is there for all who choose to see. Some opportunities are near-- friends, family, and classmates are experiencing their own sadness, loneliness, economic problems, attempting to keep them under the surface. Enlighted by God, the eyes of our hearts seek the presence of Christ, not in some far away heaven but embodied and incarnate in this world.