Contemporary Scripture Reflections for Spiritual Seekers
Dr. Elizabeth-Anne Stewart, BCC, PCC
SUNDAY BIBLETALK
May 16th, 2021
FEAST OF THE ASCENSION
Excerpt from
Jesus the Holy Fool

The Christian life is not something that simply "happens" to one, but a heroic quest to which each of us is called. God --as revealed in and through Jesus Christ-- is at the center while the arena of faith is the human condition. Its main focus is to discover God's dream for humankind and to work towards the implementing of this dream. Spending oneself for the sake of the reign of God in the present moment becomes the primary mission of each Christian. It is kairos not chronos which rules. Life is not merely "burnt toast" but an investment of everything one is and everything one has for the furthering of God's will and the glorification of God's Name. Radical surrender, simplicity, purity of vision, trust and dependency upon God are hallmarks of this journey. Prayer is a freeing event and the only privilege is discipleship itself. In its purest form, Christian spirituality establishes the equality of all the baptized; all are called to be "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a consecrated nation, a people set part" (1 Peter 2:9).


RESOURCES

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QUESTIONS
FOR REFLECTION
  1. How do you understand the Ascension?
  2. In what ways do you live between "GO" and "WAIT"?
  3. How do you fulfill your baptismal promise of proclaiming the Gospel?
  4. In what ways do you experience the Lord working in you and with you?



Greetings, SBT Readers!

Yesterday, I went to see "Dr. God." No, I'm, not being facetious: the doctor who performed my hip replacements in 2011 and 2014 earned the nomenclature "Dr. God" because of his amazing skills as an orthopedic surgeon; thousands of patients like myself owe their mobility to his brilliance-- hence his "deification"!

Visiting "Dr. God" is something I typically do once a year, just for a check-up, but this visit was brought on by carrying too many boxes of books up too many flights of stairs during my move. It wasn't the Penguin paperback classics that caused the problem, but heavy tomes such as The Jerome Biblical Commentary, Raymond Brown's Death of the Messiah, Paulist Press's The Classics of Western Spirituality, the unabridged version of my dissertation -- you get the picture! By the time I realized that lifting 40 lb boxes of books was not the wisest action after bilateral hip replacement, I was in pain. Happily, "Dr. God" assured me I was dealing with inflammation, not a joint catastrophe.

While I was in the waiting room, I found myself thinking about symptoms and spirituality. Just as pain motivates us to seek out medical assistance, so unhappiness often makes us turn to God. In the spiritual life, symptoms can also develop that indicate all is not well -- sadness, lethargy, hopelessness, frustration, anger, lack of purpose, isolation, destructive thoughts... Such symptoms, then, can be useful. Of course, in an ideal world, we would visit surgeons and God before symptoms develop. Preventive care has its place in both the medical arena and the spiritual life. While God the Healer is always ready to embrace our afflicted selves, God the Beloved would no doubt prefer it if we were to "visit" when we are well, not when we are distracted by pain!

Blessings!
Elizabeth

PS Please note my new address at the bottom of this e-letter!

SCRIPTURE REFLECTION

When they had assembled, they asked him,
“Lord, are you now going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
He answered, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons
that the Father has ordained, but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria,
and to the ends of the earth.”
When he had said this, as they looked on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight. They were looking intently at the sky when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them.
They said, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.”
Acts 1:1-11

"Why are you standing there, looking at the sky?"
When I was in second grade, I had a classmate who never knew her mother; sadly, her mother had exited this world at the same time that Emily entered it. Believing her mother was in heaven, watching over her, Emily was constantly looking up at the sky, hoping to catch a glimpse of her. When we second graders saw her studying the cloud formations, we, too, looked up, craning our necks to see if we could spot her mum. Like Emily, however, we saw nothing but clouds...

"Why are you standing there, looking at the sky?"
Like Emily, the apostles in Acts 1:1-11 are fixated on looking upwards. Having beheld Jesus lifted up, out of their midst, they must feel lost, abandoned, bereaved; they stare at the clouds, hoping for a glimpse of Jesus, for some reassurance that he is still with them.

"Why are you standing there, looking at the sky?"
The angelic message is clear: Looking at the sky is not productive. On the contrary, it creates a dichotomy between heaven and earth, making it seem as if Jesus dwells only in the heavenly realm. Moreover, it encourages apathy, hopelessness,
the inability to look forwards. As long as the apostles focus on the clouds, they are going to forget their two-fold instructions: They are to WAIT in Jerusalem for the coming of the Holy Spirit, and then they are to GO to the ends of the earth to proclaim the Gospel (Mk 16:15-20).

"Why are you standing there, looking at the sky?"
If we look for Jesus in the clouds, we are missing the point of Incarnation. The Risen Christ is still present in the physical universe -- present in each of us, present in the Church, present in the Eucharist, present in Creation. The Cosmic Christ is not
confined to some heavenly throne any more than he is confined to some tabernacle. The Feast of the Ascension is not so much about Jesus going "UP" but about his transcending the limitations of physicality. The heavenly realm is not only "UP" but also "DOWN" and "EVERYWHERE." Christ ascends metaphorically so that his presence can fill the universe.
Now, though we do not see him, we can encounter him in the physicality of our lives, in each other, and in the material universe. Like the apostles, we must learn to live between "WAIT" and "GO," guided by the Spirit and accompanied by the Holy One.
SPIRITUAL DIRECTION AND LIFE COACHING BY PHONE OR ZOOM
This video explains my approach to this ministry, while my website provides further details as well. During COVID-19, sessions are by phone or on Zoom; I am also available to facilitate "virtual" retreats for groups and individuals.
Dr. Elizabeth-Anne Stewart | www.elizabeth-annestewart.com | e.a.stewart@sbcglobal.net

C. All Photos by Elizabeth-Anne Stewart, www.artfulphotographer.com