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The Ascension Calls Us to Widen Our Lens

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Sunday, May 16th, 2010 — Feast of the Ascension (The following was given as a homilee, following the Gospel reading of Luke 24:46-53)

The story of the Ascension is one we recognize.

We know what itís like to lose someone. Maybe someone close to us has died. A parent, a child, a brother or sister. Maybe we have lost track of an old friend -- a neighbor or teacher who was a mentor for us. Or maybe we have seen time pass so quickly that we feel we have lost a part of ourselves as well as the people we were close to at another time in our lives.

Last weekend, we went back to our grandsonís First Communion. As we sat in the church, I wondered how this man sitting next to me could be the father of the little boy who was making his First Communion. Even as I held back tears of pride watching Jack stand up at the lectern, reading from the Book of Revelation -- quite a mouthful for a seven-year-old -- I was scouring my mind for images of his Dad on the day of his First Communion.

We donít like to lose these moments, these people, and the passages that in so many ways have made us what we are. Our losses can rock us spiritually so that, like the disciples, we lose sight of God.

When that happens, the angel tells us not to bury our heads in the past or in an idea of God that worked in the past and no longer does. Stop gazing at the empty place -- seeing only the loss, the crisis or the failure. Believe that God is there. If we stop to notice we will see that God is giving us exactly what we need.

I came across a book called: Images of Jesus, by a Benedictine monk. Itís described as, "a new Jesus book for a new time." There are traditional images like: The Jesus who refused power; The Jesus who reconciles; and Jesus the redeemer. And there are unfamiliar ones, like: Jesus the drop-out, the family therapist, the drunkard and glutton, the vagabond and the exorcist.

The feast of the Ascension calls us to widen our lens. It reminds us to look for God in new ways and in different situations. We find different images of God that help us sort out our lossesÖour everyday conflicts, our problems at work and in families, our anxieties and worries. Paying attention to God is practical. It helps us stay sane.

Where do we find God? In the Eucharist, certainly. But also in each other and in the events of our daily lives. We find God in everything that builds us up and makes us feel most alive. When God animates our lives the world is a better place.

St. Ignatius of Loyola said we, "find God in all things." He gave us a form of prayer called the Consciousness Examen. Itís a way of checking in with ourselves and God to see how well weíre doing at following Godís lead.

The Examen is:

  • Not a preparation for confession.

  • The focus is on gratitude, not guilt.

  • It is not a time to make decisions, work out problems, or be judgmental.

  • Quick: "A little dab will do ya."

Iíd like to share a version of the Examen I found in a You Tube on the internet. It was adapted by the faculty of University of San Francisco.

To begin, sit comfortably, feet on floor, eyes closed. Breathe!

1. Give thanks to God for all Godís gifts, graces, favors received.

2. Look for clarity. Think back on your day (or yesterday). What stands out? Is there one event in particular? Look at highs and lows. Ask God to help you see clearly all that God sees.

3. Honestly assess fear, distractions, obsessions. Is there anything bothering you right now? What can you do to take care of it? Has this kept you from noticing moments of grace, from making use your gifts, from seeing ways others have reached out to you or ways you can reach out to others?

4. Prayer of contrition. "God our father, you know our lives and the problems and stresses we face. Help us keep our eyes not on our problems but on your grace."

5. What should I change? As we continue on our way, help us regain our balance and realize our potential when our lives are on track.

6. Prayer of gratitude for graces and insights received.

Gratitude. Clarity. Honesty. Contrition. Change. Gratitude. It is a simple way to maintain our sanity.

*************************************

When we actively look for the ways in which God is present to us, God becomes more real, more fluid and, in many ways, more challenging. God helps us widen our lens. For instance, the family therapist God who saved our childrenís lives and helped us lead them, is now the tender God who helps us let go.

Sometimes we need the God who weeps with us and sometimes we need God the Clown. But unless we pause to take stock of our lives, we will miss those moments of grace that give us direction.

The Ascension is part of a story of incredible faith in the God who changed lives 2000 years ago. It is a story of faith in actionÖof people doing what they could to change their world. Because a few people believed, that change extended first to Rome and then to the rest of the world. In spite of Christianityís darkest moments, the life and death of Jesus transformed history, some say, more than any other event. If we believe in this God, we can continue that transformation in our own lives and our own time -- a time that might need Godís grace more than ever before.

In the end we are called to believe that God is with us and to do what we can to make our world better. Even in the darkest times, God will lead us to a place of hope. When we believe this, we will see that Godís ways of being with us are infinite and always exactly what we need.