In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.
While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward 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.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
As I write this reflection, I am walking part of the ancient path of the Camino in northern Spain, the route that pilgrims have traced for over 1000 years leading to the resting place of Santiago, St. James the apostle.
We pilgrims must keep our eyes on the path—for the road is filled with rocks and roots and mud pies. But if we simply look down, we miss the sublime natural beauty through which we walk and toward which we travel.
So it is in all of life. The Ascension teaches us to look to the heavens for inspiration and exhilaration. But our gaze must then return to earth—to navigate the daily complexities of our calling.
Gazing up and looking down. Looking up and gazing down. This holy rhythm stretches our stiff necks and makes of us a people more pleasing to the Lord.
—J. Michael Sparough, S.J. is a retreat director, playwright, and poet at the Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House, Barrington, IL
Lord, I’m frightened.
Something in me
resists what you want me to be,
clinging to the well trod paths of the past,
fearing an unknown future.
Teach me how to gaze upon Your goodness
Even as I see clearly the struggles I must face.
Teach me to embrace my upward calling,
to find You in the heavens and on earth,
To trust in your guiding light
To eventually make all things right,
If I but follow where you are leading.
—J. Michael Sparough, S.J.