There are many events and circumstances in our world that pull our spirits down. Violence, crime, conflicts among nations, abuse, family problems, all of these can give us drooping spirits. The feast of the Ascension of Jesus into heaven is about the opposite of being pulled down. The Acts of the Apostles tells us that Jesus was lifted up and taken into heaven (Acts 1:9-11). The Ascension of Jesus is what prepared the way for the coming of the Holy Spirit. As he says, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you… (Acts 1:8)”. It is this power that lifts us up when we are down. It is the Holy Spirit that lifts up a broken world through us.
In the English language there are many references to being lifted up. We say our spirits are lifted. We talk about burdens being lifted and hopes that are raised. We speak of rising to the occasion to meet a challenge. As a Church, we engage in efforts to lift people out of poverty.
The Ascension invites us to think about being lifted up. We are beckoned to think about times in our lives when our spirits were lifted, when a burden was lifted, when we felt lifted up. At those times, we can be sure it was the Holy Spirit who was with us. Most likely other people were with us too. Who were those people? Have we said thank you to them? If not, perhaps there’s still time to say it.
We might also call to mind a time when we “rose to the occasion” and took on a difficult challenge. Certainly it was the Holy Spirit helping us to rise to that occasion. There were also probably people who believed in us and supported us. The Holy Spirit was working through them as well. The Ascension invites us to think about who might need our help in lifting a burden. As a parish, what efforts can we make to help lift people of the world out of poverty?
At one point in every Mass the priest says, “Lift up your hearts!” We respond, “We have lifted them up to the Lord!” May our acclamation match our confidence that the Lord is always there to lift us up.