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Look Up to the Sky

May 16, 2021
Grandpa Bunny (Disney Classic) (Little Golden Book) by RH Disney (Author, Illustrator).

A reflection for the Solemnity of the Ascension, year B. The readings are Acts 1:1-11; Psalm 47; Ephesians 1:17-23 and     Mark 16:15-20.

 When I was 4 years old my grandfather died. The whole experience was kept fairly hidden from me – except I was told that he was going to Heaven. I remember that even though I was not taken to the funeral Mass, (for some reason) I was outside the Church, in the parking lot, just after the funeral was over and I kept looking up at the sky. I wanted to see if I could see the coffin flying off to heaven – with wings! I must’ve been listening to the song, “Spirit in the Sky“: “♪♪ going on up to the Spirit in the sky…” Hey, it was the 70’s!

I guess someone asked what I was doing and then explained that this is not how people get to Heaven. It’s funny the way kids think about things. I was looking up to the sky because I wanted to see someone awesome; something amazing.

And I think that’s a bit of what’s happening to the disciples in the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles.

The disciples have just experienced something amazing; something tremendous; something wonderful: Jesus rose from the dead and just spent 40 days with them. Everything he had promised now made sense. Can you imagine that? It was amazing. And then they see him ascend to Heaven just as he said he would. They must’ve been in such awe. How amazing to have been there to witness it! And then these angels show up and spoil it all: “Why are you guys staring up at the sky? Move along.”

-What do you mean? Of course we’re looking at the sky! We just experienced something amazing!

I think those angels were wrong.

Let me briefly explain, that it depends on which translation of Acts you have. The one I like makes it clear that the disciples are staring at the sky, not at heaven; so there’s a clear distinction between the sky and heaven. That distinction is important, because, it’s true that, even though we have to keep our eyes on Heaven, we can’t live our whole lives staring up at the sky; we have to have our feet planted right here on earth so we can do the work that we have to do. But I think that sometimes, it’s OK to spend a little more time than usual looking to the skies: when we’re going through sorrow and despair; when we’re suffering; when we go through loss; when we experience pain; when things are difficult… When you don’t know how to pray, look up at the sky; when we go through a pandemic…

Today, it’s ok to look at the sky.

Because looking at the sky reminds us of Heaven – and we have to keep our eyes on Heaven.

That’s why St. Paul in the second reading from his letter to the Ephesians says that he “prays the eyes of our hearts be enlightened that we may know the hope to which we are called.” (Ephesians 1:18)  I love that! What is the hope to which we are called? Heaven!  That’s where we’re all supposed to go: to be one with God.

That’s what’s difficult about our lives. We are stuck between two realities; between two worlds. We have this existence here on earth, attached to this physical reality that, despite the struggles, brings us so much beauty, joy and pleasure, but deep down inside we have a restlessness because we know we don’t’ belong here. We belong in Heaven. We are created for Heaven. Heaven is the promise. That’s where we’re headed and it’s hard to get to where you’re going if you don’t keep your eyes on the prize.

But in the meantime, we have to live stuck between the two.

Around the same time that my grandfather died, I had a children’s book – a Disney Classic – about a Grandpa Bunny who was a painter. He painted things. He was a great painter and he taught his bunny grandchildren all about painting: they would paint all the flowers red, blue, yellow, pink, purple and orange in the Spring and the leaves red and orange in the Fall and they would spend moonlit nights in the winter painting those beautiful long shadows in the snow. And of course, at Easter they would paint Easter eggs….  Then one day, Grandpa bunny told his bunny grandchildren that he had to go on a long journey. The bunnies didn’t know where he went or whether he was coming back. Until a few days later they saw a beautiful sky – the most beautiful sunset with reds, oranges, yellows and deep purples: an amazing, wonderful sunset. That’s when we realize where Grandpa Bunny had gone.

And just how Grandpa Bunny had to leave so that he could share his painting with the whole world and not just his grandchildren, Jesus had to leave – so that he would not just be physically present to a few, but spiritually present to all. And that’s the promise. Because of the Holy Spirit, after the Ascension, Jesus is not farther away from us; Because he ascends to the Father, because of the Holy Spirit, Jesus is closer to us than ever!

And because he ascended, we know that we too will ascend; we too will get to Heaven, for, as our opening prayer today says, “where the Head has gone before in glory, the Body is called to follow in hope.” Jesus is the Head and we are the Body and so where Jesus, the Head goes in glory, we the Body of Christ, are called to follow in hope.

Keep your eyes on Heaven; that’s where we’re headed. But especially today it’s ok to spend a little more time than usual looking up at the sky.

Who knows? You may see something amazing.

You may catch a glimpse of Heaven.

♪ Goin’ up to the spirit in the sky
That’s where I’m gonna go when I die
When I die and they lay me to rest
I’m gonna go to the place that’s the best ♪

From → English, Reflections

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