While [Jesus] was going and they were gazing up towards heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’ (Acts 1:10-11)
The Feast of the Ascension has always struck me as a very mixed bag of emotions. I can just picture the bewildered disciples staring up into the sky…thinking to themselves: What the hell just happened???
Caught somewhere between the elation of spending time with their Risen Lord, and the sudden shock that they are once again “on their own”……this is a day of both celebration and apprehension.
You see..at this point in the story….the Holy Spirit hasn’t arrived yet. Pentecost is still a week away……and in many ways, the disciples are right back where they’ve started. A frightened minority, locked behind closed doors……And yet, something is different compared to the time when they hid themselves away on Good Friday.
Now….the followers of Jesus know something is different. They have touched the hands and feet of their Lord and know that he lives! Despite Christ’s sudden departure from their midst….they can’t simply ignore what they have experienced. They know they have something special…..but the question remains….what do we do with it????
Something holds them back. How exactly are we supposed to feel about this? On the one hand, we know that we have been blessed by Grace, forgiveness and love, and seen it with our own eyes….and yet…on the other hand, we find ourselves staring into nothing as it travels somewhere beyond our knowing.
At the risk of sounding too personal…I can relate to this bewilderment and confusion. given some of the life-events which have occurred in the last three weeks.
Between the call to priestly ordination, and the (mutual) break-up of a loving and life-giving relationship….I feel that I’m caught between two extremes…..Joy and celebration at the fact that a life-long dream is coming true…..while at the same time, sadness at having to let something go that has been equally precious to me.
I honestly don’t know what to do when these feelings come at me simultaneously……but I take comfort in knowing that even the Church recognizes and holds on to those feelings within it’s own traditions and feast-days. Ambiguity and a sense of being uncomfortable and confused is not something that I–or any of us–are alone in…it is a shared experience with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Like the infant church…..scared and unsure…..we move ahead even though we are clueless of the direction…..and with the sure knowledge that somewhere along the way, the Holy Spirit will come to be our comfort, our guide, and the one who lights a fire under our ass …(or in our hearts if you prefer the more traditional image) +