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Gaze upon the beauty of Jesus

Readings for May 11-12, The Ascension of the Lord

By Lyn Zahorik | For On Mission

As a little girl, I was always excited to go to the county fair. During one visit to the fair, my dad bought me a brightly colored helium balloon.

“You have to hold on to it tightly,” he instructed me.

I enjoyed walking around the fair with my balloon bobbing after me. But then, a crisis occurred. When I reached out to take an ice cream cone from my mom, the balloon slipped from my fingers and floated off into the sky. I looked up and watched my balloon sparkling in the sunlight, drifting further and further away. 

If, as in today’s Gospel account, an angel would have appeared to me and asked why I was standing there looking at the sky, I would have had an answer: “Because I loved that balloon, and it looks so beautiful floating among the clouds and sparkling in the sunlight.”

I would like to imagine that is how the disciples felt as they watched Jesus ascend into heaven. It had to be a bittersweet moment as this was the second time they had “lost” Jesus — the first at his crucified death and now at his resurrected ascension. Yet, as they watched Jesus ascend, his body radiant, his garments softly blowing in the breeze, they could do nothing except hold their gaze upward, saying, “How beautiful.”

Next Sunday is the great Solemnity of Pentecost, reminding us that the Holy Spirit strengthens us in our mission to be the disciples of Jesus. We know it’s hard work. We know the Holy Spirit has given each of us the specific gifts and abilities we need to do wondrous things in the name of Jesus.

A holy, passionate disciple also knows how to step aside from work and gaze upon the Lord, saying, “You are beautiful.” It is appropriate then, that the feast of the Ascension precedes Pentecost. We need to look up at the sky and feel our intimate relationship with Jesus, which is so close, yet seems so far away in the heavens.

One can find many opportunities to gaze upon the beauty of Jesus. 

Spend time in Eucharistic Adoration or sit quietly in a beautiful church. Plan a road trip to the Champion Shrine or Holy Hill at Hubertus and walk the outdoor paths. Page through a book of religious art or engage with an icon. Watch an early morning sunrise or look upon the myriad of stars on a clear night. 

A piece of music that may touch your heart, “How Beautiful” by Twila Paris, holds a message that is perfect for us as we transition from Ascension to Pentecost: “How beautiful, how beautiful, how beautiful Is the body of Christ.” Many versions of this song are found online.

Happy feast of the Ascension. Let your love for Jesus and Jesus’ love for you be like a balloon, gently rising into the heavens. And, if you should be rebuked for gazing into the heavens instead of “discipling,” reply, “Yes, but isn’t he beautiful?”

Zahorik is director for spiritual engagement at St. Mary Parish, Omro, and St. Mary Parish, Winneconne.

The readings for Sunday, May 12, can be found at Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord | USCCB.

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