Gospel Meditation – Welcome to the great tent of the Church.

The Ascension of the Lord

When I was a kid, my parents took me to the circus, and I was mesmerized by the acrobats. I recall one show in which the trapeze artists would swoop down just above the ground and then launch up into the air, flinging their bodies seemingly to the top of the tent, all at dizzying speeds. It wasn’t just their height but their dangerous proximity to the ground that thrilled me. 

Perhaps that’s a little how St. Mark wants us to feel as he describes the Ascension of Jesus. He tells us that Jesus “sat down at table with them” and then, just a few lines later, “he ascended into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God.” He dies, he rises! He sits down, he ascends! What do these divine acrobatics teach us? 

The depth and height on display are a show of his love for us. When Jesus “sat down” he “upbraided them for their lack of faith and stubbornness of heart.” He dangerously swoops down into our lowly place of fragmentation, disbelief, and death. When he ascends, he confirms their preaching with signs of powerful healing. The height of heaven is the place from which God brings wholeness, faith, and life. The point is the Ascension of Jesus is not about his departure. It is about the feat by which he unites the heavens and the earth, the highest and the lowest. 

We are meant to relive this spiritually dizzying experience in every Mass, when Jesus sits down with us at his Eucharistic table and then offers himself up to the Father with and for us. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls: welcome to the great tent of the Church! Feast your eyes on the divine and human acrobat whose saving feat is the great thrill of our lives.   

— Father John Muir


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