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Somewhere beyond the clouds | Word Alive

Carissa Douglas

Friday, May 27, 2022

Detail of The Ascension of Christ, part of the Uffizi Triptych painted by Andrea Mantegna (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Somewhere beyond the clouds

A reflection for The Ascension of the Lord, Year C

by Carissa Douglas

As a child, I often stared up at the clouds and talked to God. I had heard stories of Christ’s Ascension into heaven and imagined watching Him float gracefully up into the air. It seemed right to send my prayers in the same direction Christ had gone.
When I was nine years old, my four-year-old sister was struck by a car, and suddenly, she was forever beyond my reach. I was allowed to hold her pink shoes that she had gotten for Easter earlier that year. She had worn them the day of the accident. I sat outside, holding them tightly, while I searched the clouds. I imagined her soul finding the path that Jesus had forged and stepping into heaven. I begged her to come back, but it was not meant to be. I sometimes asked God why He had taken her and not me. There was a strange mixture of conflicting emotions. I wanted my sister to be returned back to us, but then I also experienced a longing to be with her, standing before the beatific vision beyond the divide.
For the years that followed, I was particularly drawn to the account of the Ascension from the Acts of the Apostles. I could almost see the disciples as their eyes were searching the empty skies, lingering on the space once filled with the presence of Our Lord, and I would find myself standing beside them, enveloped in their longing for the return of one held so dear. I basked in the rays of awe and wonder at the magnitude of the promise of heaven, but I also shrank before the empty abyss dividing us, becoming so small and feeling utterly alone.
Now the angel’s words, “…why do you stand looking up toward heaven?” convict me.
With all the brokenness, wars, and attacks (particularly those on our faith), I sometimes long for Christ’s swift return. “Come now, Lord Jesus,” has been a series of whispered words poured over quivering lips. “We desperately need You.”
But again, I hear, “…why do you stand looking up toward heaven?”
Our time and calling is here and now.
The pink, delicate shoes my sister wore before her death speak more to her purpose during her time on earth. She reminded our family that we are an Easter people, enthralled by the hope of heaven. But I acknowledge that perhaps my purpose may require work boots. The brokenness of society compels us to be Christ’s presence at work in the world.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
Our mission may not require us to travel to the ends of the earth but, indeed, to burn with the love of the Gospel and to allow the Holy Spirit (our constant companion) to fan the flame in our hearts. Our mission is to respond to each moment and each encounter with the ones God places in our paths, to be His hands and feet responding to His promptings.
And in spite of that feeling of being left behind, we know without a doubt that we have not been abandoned. God remains with us. There is a promise that one day He will return, but a small, red light in every Catholic Church declares that in truth, we were never alone.

The readings for The Ascension of the Lord, Year C, are
Acts 1:1-11
Ephesians 1:17-23 or Hebrews 9:24-28; 10:19-23
Luke 24:44-5

Carissa Douglas is the mother of 14 children ages 19 and under. She is the author and illustrator of the Little Douglings Catholic children’s book series and the Dougling Adventures junior fiction novels. She is the producer of Shalom World Television’s Little Douglings: Play and Pray. Together with her husband, Patrick, she is passionate about finding new ways to evangelize and to share the richness of the Catholic Faith.

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