“Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky?” (Acts of the Apostles, 1:10)
|Jesus has left this world.|
His physical presence has “ascended.” He has returned to the Father who sent him to help people see with their own eyes and hear with their own ears who God truly is.
The Feast of the Ascension reminds us of this one major reality:
Jesus has completed his earthly work of showing clearly through his parables, his casting out of demons, his “healing of the people,” and his call of the outcast into full fellowship that a new way of living is now possible
– a way he called the “reign of God” or the “kingdom of God.”
This “reign” or “kingdom” is not to be confused with a political or militaristic rule. It does not in any way involve tyrannical domination over others. Instead, the “reign of God” that Jesus relentlessly preached and lived out involved a very singular dimension:
The reign of God over human hearts. Your heart. My heart.
In today’s reading from sacred scripture, the angels ask the apostles: “Why are you standing there looking at the sky?”
What the angels are saying is:
Jesus does not ask us to stand in awe or to waste time grieving the loss of his physical presence. Instead, Jesus calls each of us to do something quite different: go on a mission – a mission of living out what Jesus lived; a mission of going out to “all the nations” bringing with you the “good news” of a whole new way of being human.
As one scripture scholar puts it:
“In these times of deep religious crisis, it is not enough to believe in just any God; we need to know what kind of God is revealed in Jesus … not a ‘god’ we have created out of our own fears, ambitions, and illusions, but the very different God that Jesus experienced and communicated.”
In other words, if there is a God worth believing in, God must be like Jesus – committed to being with the “least of these,” teaching the centrality of love and kindness and mercy, always showing heartfelt compassion.
The true test of whether the God we believe in is worth our love and fidelity is this:
How does this God care for all people?
The way the God of Jesus demonstrated care for people was unique:
Searching out the one sheep that was lost; forgiving “70 times 7;” throwing a party for the son who was lost but now was found; saving a woman being stoned by an angry mob, getting down on his knees and washing the feet of his disciples. And, of course, enduring the most excruciating of deaths, and gifting his entire self out of love for all.
That’s how the God of Jesus demonstrates how much he cares.
But this God also must be one who can draw the best out of us, a God who enriches us by stretching us and calling us to a deeper and more fulfilling experience of true happiness.
Jesus does just that when he says: “Be merciful as God is merciful.” Love as God loves. Forgive as God forgives.
And the reward will be a way of life that will result in a peace and a harmony that will satisfy our deepest longings as human beings.
Ultimately, this is how, Jesus tells us, a “reign of God” will happen in our lives:
When we start seeing through the eyes of those who suffer, and decide to “not just stand there looking at the sky,” but commit ourselves to working towards bringing about a world in line with the kind of God Jesus taught, modeled and died for.
Ted Wolgamot, Psy.D.