Saturday, May 19, 2007

A Physical Pull to God

This weekend is Ascension Sunday in most dioceses of the United States. Ascension is a funky kind of Solemnity of the Church. No one knows quite what to do with it. After all, we've already had the really big festival in Easter. Ascension and perhaps even more so Pentecost hang out on the edge of most churchly consciousnesses.

But Ascension is significant. It shows us where we are going, where our Leader has gone before us.... body and soul, humanity and divinity. The Ascension, like Easter, indicates that the physical body IS important to God and to humanity. We are not simply ethereal soul-beings who shed our physical selves on the way to God. In fact, it's quite the opposite.

The physical IS the way to the Father. Our lives on earth are not the anteroom to a more significant heavenly existence. Our physical existence here is the stuff out of which the afterlife is made.
The Ascension also shows us the power of God to draw us to Himself. As Jesus said to Mary Magdalene and the other Apostles "I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God."

There is something fundamentally God-ward in each one of us, no matter what our physical or spiritual state. From conception to natural death we are being drawn into God's love and god's presence, like Jesus who, having descended to become one of us, takes the path of return, drawing us after Him.

Some additonal wise words from Michael Casey's Toward God: The Ancient Wisdom of Western Prayer.

A rubber ball held under water submits. Once released, it springs to the surface: and the deeper it is held the more it strains to rise. The human spirit possesses a natural bouyancy.
It can be held down by enslavement to the senses, by aquisitiveness and ambition, by anger and violence, or by what the New Testament calls "cares." It can be held down, but its natural tendency remains dynamically oriented toward God. It can never be entirely satisfied until this upward impulse is allowed freedom.

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