Thursday, May 29, 2014

Ascension Day

In today's snippet from Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus summons his disciples to a mountain top, proclaiming that all power in heaven and on earth belongs to him, commissioning them to baptize in his name and solemnly promising to be with them always.  Somewhat surprisingly they worship him, but they also doubt. It seems a bit anticlimactic. After all they have experienced of Jesus, they doubt. Literally in the Greek, they are "standing two ways." 

Perhaps it’s the perfect ending to Matthew’s Gospel. We remember after all how it began: “Now this is how the birth of Jesus took place…” Those few words always sound so promising, almost like, “Once upon a time…” But as the story unfolds, it’s more like a fractured fairy tale, not picture perfect. There’s Mary’s unexplained pregnancy, Joseph’s dream, and on and on… Not ideal but real, like Jesus’ life, like our lives.

Perhaps it is consoling to realize that even Jesus’ closest companions were in the final analysis more than a bit confused. Isn’t it true that even as we strive to live a life of faith, like the apostles we sometimes doubt and are often left looking heavenward and wondering where Jesus is or where he's gone?

When in the face of our doubt, we choose to move forward in faith and faithfulness, moment by moment, day by day, then faith trumps doubt. Then the dull darkness of doubt enhances the tender flickering of faith, and lets it shine forth more brilliantly. Perhaps this is all Jesus desires, this kind of faith- powerful but tiny as a mustard seed. Perhaps this is enough.

The Ascension of Christ, historiated initial ‘C’, Italian, 15 century, State Library of Victoria.