One of my new favorite movies is a romantic comedy called (500) Days of Summer, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel. One of the themes of this movie is the idea of expectations versus reality in relationships. Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character, Tom, has all these expectations of what relationships should be like, but his relationship with Summer makes him realize that he needed to be more realistic about what he wanted.
In a similar way, the Apostles had their own expectations of what would happen after Jesus rose from the dead. He came to establish His kingdom and He already conquered death, so what was left to do? The reality of the situation, however, was that Jesus had to return to Heaven. After all, before Jesus died, he said:
“My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” (John 18:36)
The kingdom of Jesus is not from Earth, but from Heaven and it was time for Him to go home. Thankfully, He did not leave His Apostles without some instructions: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19) So as wonderful and awe-inspiring as the Ascension was, the angels gave the apostles a reality check: “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw Him go into heaven.”
We’ve all experienced spiritual highs at some point, but they never last as long as we want them to. Some people expect life as a Christian to be one of perpetual happiness. In reality, we are more likely to go through periods of spiritual dryness, storms in our lives, and times when we wander around darkness in search for God. No matter what we’re feeling, the reality is that God is always with us.
The Mystery of the Ascension reminds us to return to reality. We need to continue doing God’s work, no matter how we may feel. It’s easy to do God’s work when we’re happy, after all, but it means a lot more when we love God in spite of whatever else is happening. Instead of depending on the fluctuations of our feelings, we need to root our hearts in God, whose love never changes.
Do you have a tendency to chase spiritual highs or depend too much on how you feel in order to do something? How do you think you can change that?
Think of a time when you were doing God’s work. When did it feel more fulfilling or rewarding: When you were doing it in the midst of a spiritual high or when you were offering up your struggles as you were working?
If you have some fantasies or memories of something that leads you away from doing God’s work, meditate on this particular mystery and ask God to help you let go and move on.