Keep your eyes fixed on heaven
Reflection on the Ascension
These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.
And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was. I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word.
Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee.
For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.
I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them.
And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.
Jesus raised His eyes to heaven; the disciples raised their eyes to heaven; and heaven is where we must keep our eyes fixed.
It was at the Last Supper when Jesus raised His eyes, gave thanks to the Father, and prayed to be illumined by His glory (Jn 17:1): the glory Our Lord had known before the cosmos was born, in the Kingdom beyond time (Jn 17:5). He was life, even life eternal (Jn 17:2): for He was one with the One who spoke His Name to Moses from the glory of the fire: the Holy Name of the One “who is” (Ex 3.14), source of all life and being. He did not hold back this equality with God (Phil 2:6), did not keep eternal life for Himself, but came and conquered flesh, the stuff of sin and death (Jn 17:2). Yet His victory consisted not in destroying the flesh, but by perfecting it (v. 4).
This much the Apostles knew, even as, at the Ascension, they stood on Mount of Olives, their eyes raised to heaven as their Master’s were. They had seen the perfection of the flesh in His Resurrection. They had received that flesh under the form of Bread, from His very hands. But the Apostles had yet to know the full union with that flesh which the Spirit of Life would inspire them. Breathed first onto the world from the dying Victim in His last breath on the Cross (Jn 19:30), then second onto them from the Risen Lord in the Upper Room (Jn 20:22), only its third and final expiration at Pentecost would its tongues of fire lick them into the fulness of truth (Acts 2).
Where Our Lord’s eyes and the Apostles’ were raised, there should ours gaze also. I mean, of course, the eyes of our souls. To be sure, the eyes of our bodies must guide our hands into the sufferings of the flesh. When your hands are soothing the sores of the sick, God is there. When you are elbow-deep in soiled nappies, whether of a baby or a spouse with dementia, God is there. When your hands are toiling at the keyboard or the production line to feed your family, God is there.
For when Our Lord entered our world of flesh, He changed it forever. He made the flesh a ladder to the world of spirit.
But whatever the labours of our hands and however godly, the eyes of our souls must be fixed on the invisible things, the treasures untouched by moth or rust. Constant prayer is the daily bread by which the Kingdom of the Father of Lights (Jas 1:17) will win final victory over that of the Father of Lies. We toil not for the bread of this world, but for the Bread which will last forever. We receive in Sacrament and Scripture the Word of Life who is God Himself. Consume that bread, that it may consume you, you and all the cosmos, lifting us up into the oneness with the Father that Christ our King and High Priest forever enjoys.
For when Our Lord returned to the world of spirit, He changed it forever, too. He changed it by taking you there.
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