Solemnity of the Ascension

Curiosity is necessary for learning; it is the engine that drives us to discover and invent and explore. Where would we be without someone’s curious mind looking for answers in the fields of medicine and industry and public policies. The amendments to the US Constitutions are all added as situations arose that needed answers to questions that were not possible to ask when the Constitution was first written. Changes were made because curious people started asking questions the status quo could not answer.

Think of all the advances made in the last fifty years in medicine and science and yet what we know now I am sure will change fifty years from now. I heard recently that we know only 7% of what is in our universe. What is beyond our galaxy? Is there life somewhere else in the universe? Fifty years from now we might know another 7% but that still leaves 86% of the universe unknow to us. The mind is wired to seek answers, to inquire, to explore and discover. Can we ever rest in the fact that we are satisfied with what we know? I don’t think so. Will a time come when we have all the answers and need not explore of search anymore? I doubt it.

There is an old proverb that says, curiosity killed the cat but satisfaction brought it back. There are two movements here: curiosity is an active seeking and desiring; satisfaction is resting in what we have acquired. Advertising understands this about our brain, it knows we are curious and looking for things that satisfy us – be it a new car or a new computer. I think we can conclude that curiosity can be either a vice or a virtue. 

But there is one field where curiosity can be a vice. All the world changing. Discoveries have been made by Nobel prize type people, but each one of us needs to find the answers to the big questions of what is the meaning of our life. The answers are found in religion and spirituality. In this realm ambition and curiosity and the desire to succeed can be a hindrance because the doctrines and truths of religion call for surrender not conquest. Our will to power must be set aside and as the Lord says we must be childlike in our trust that what has been revealed will lead us to the secrets of life.

Being the first in our class has no meaning here, being admired for our achievements can be detrimental to our goal which is to be like Christ who came to serve and not to be served, who told us to die to self and take up our cross daily and follow him. Yet our drive to succeed and our will to power and our innate ambition is still operative. We are truly complex people full of contrary drives and desires. To be patient with ourselves is the only escape we have; to suffer the contradictions we find in ourselves is a way to imitate the way of Jesus who emptied himself and took the form of a slave. We too are slaves to our human condition – there is no escape except to live through and accept who we are.

Today’s feast of Jesus ascending into heaven represents to us the time when all our drives for true holiness and false holiness are reconciled and all that is false in us is burned away by the Love inflamed in our heart. The hard shell of our selfishness and hardness we used to protect ourselves from a truth too hard to bear is broken opened and our true self is revealed. The human nature that so attracted God that he emptied himself of his divinity and became human will be seen by each of us. It is in us now but as Isaiah the prophet said there is a vail over our eyes and our vision is clouded. We know we are in the image of God and that we live and move and have our being in him. We know but we don’t know, but when we share in the Ascension of Christ we will know as we are known and we will see God face to face; we sill see ourselves in God. 

The Ascension is the completion of Christ’s journey through this life. By celebrating it now we anticipate our share in this mystery, The darkness may even deepen but if it does it is just so that our hope grows stronger. We live by hope and faith not by vision and completion, but some day faith and hope will not be needed, only love, only love endures.