STUCK WITH A MODEST GOD (Mk 16:15-20): Ascension Sunday (24 May 2009)
Dear Lord Jesus,
Today we remember your Ascension. I guess many things can be said about it, but for me, it’ll always be the day you went away.
Yes, I know: You didn’t just pack up and leave. You didn’t just go without explaining why you had to return to the Father. You didn’t just disappear without making sure your disciples could continue your work. Most of all, you didn’t leave without first promising to send us your Holy Spirit and to be with us till the end of time.
You send your disciples on a mission to proclaim your gospel to the whole world, and before they can even nod in agreement, you’re off, you’re gone, leaving them–and leaving us–behind, our eyes raised, our jaws dropped. What was that?!
So, before I rush off to celebrate another feast like Pentecost, I have to ask you one question: Why did you have to leave? Didn’t it occur to you that you also had the option to stay? Don’t get me wrong: I do believe that you are with us just as you promised, but your presence is much too subtle, your ways much too modest for our feeble eyes and fragile hearts. It’s not always easy to detect your presence in the world around us, especially with all its noisy activities. And even when I search my own heart, it’s also usually hard to find you or to hear your voice. So sometimes I can’t help but wish you had skipped the Ascension altogether.
Now as a result of your Ascension and your modesty, we have all these bestsellers about your non-existence and the alleged falsehood of your teachings. We now have a whole battalion of what British critic Terry Eagleton calls the “Ditchkins”–a term he coined referring to what he describes as noisy, hysterical, and shallow atheists like Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins. The world is lapping up what they say and their hubristic idolatry of science and reason, while your official spokesmen, we priests and theologians, are–please forgive us–nowhere as articulate or media-savvy.
Lord Jesus, why not speak on your own behalf, and for your sake and ours, silence your critics once and for all?
But you don’t. You choose not to, being the modest God that you are, and I guess you know better. Today, as I recall that day you rose to the sky, maybe it’s best to accept that we are stuck here with a modest God. Maybe it’ll also help to remember the angels’ advice to your disciples: that we should spend our days searching not the sky, but the world and our own hearts because just as you promised, you arewith us. Help me, Lord, never to tire of seeking you.
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