Mark 16:15-20, Solemnity of The Ascension of The Lord
Ordinarily, it means going higher. It is taking it to an advanced level, sometimes in stratospheric space where very few champions reigned. I often hear it used in sports—describing the efforts and skills of athletes that dare defy our ideas of boundaries and limits. In front of such display of superhuman skill and heart, we can only be in awe.
Perhaps, it is the same awe that left the apostles silent and shocked as they witnessed Jesus’ elevation. Upon closer reflection, the dissimilarity (given the analogy) appears greater. It is not so much about displaying the god-like powers or stretching out His will that enabled Jesus to elevate. Though it can be argued that He can, but as the readings show, He is more of a beneficiary—“was lifted up”, “taken up by the clouds”, “raising him from the dead”, “seating him at his right hand”. These phrases found in the readings today reveal how Jesus is not the one doing the elevation but the Father. Jesus is being elevated. This trajectory runs in contrast to our ordinary perception of elevation as an act of will defying the odds. The Father elevates the Son. The Son allows Himself to be elevated by the Father. More than an act of will, at the core of the Solemnity of our Lord’s Ascension, elevation becomes a matter of relationship. In elevation, we discover how much worth and value we possess through the eyes of the one elevating us. Elevation is a concrete expression of a love that exalts, revealing how a precious beloved is in the eyes of the lover who is elevating her. In front of such love, we can only be in awe. Moreover, if elevation is also a matter of destination, then the destination leads us to a place where the beloved and the lover are of equal footing. In the case of Jesus, it is togetherness with the Father. And this grace is promised to us too.
If there is still something of similarity left in our analogy, it is the thought that elevation demands serious (and sometimes, superhuman) effort. It does require us to break boundaries and limits—to allow ourselves to be lifted up by others’ sincere care against our own tendencies of self-rejection and pessimism, for example. Or to reach out, time and again, and elevate those who are in need of our forgiveness and kindness. If elevation is a matter of relationship, then it is a co-ordinated action between the beloved and the lover over time. Yet, we know how complicated and uncoordinated our stories are. In the histories of our attempts at loving, sometimes, it can be a matter of timing. In other cases, it is a matter of grace. Or perhaps, a matter of value—of how much worth others still have in our eyes, enough to move us to even making another meaningful push. It is in those instances where we are invited to take it to another level.
God’s love elevates. If we find it tough or confusing, we are allowed to take deep breaths and recover by choosing to be elevated in God’s love. It is allowing God to take “a long and loving look” at us, and in doing so, moving us to take a long and loving look at Him. In such intimate space and moment, we can find ourselves in an advanced level, a stratosphere where only the beloved and the lover reign. It is a moment of togetherness where we experience that we are in “equal footing with God”. And perhaps only then can an authentic and transformative conversation begin—a conversation shaped by a love that elevates.
*from the website of Philippine Jesuits