There are moments in this life when I wished I processed more insight about what was happening in the moment that is now. They are often moments caught up in the midst and whirl of things; moments when I look back and wished I had paused and considered what was stirring within. Attentive to the now.
Lent is a season when we are called to take time and pray for the wisdom to be attentive to the moments leading up to the celebration on Easter. But what about the Easter season? Those 50 days from Easter Sunday to Pentecost have come and are almost gone. There is a lot whirling around our lives that make the quiet of Lent seem long ago and far away.
There is a lot whirling around in our lives. We are firmly in the midst of high school and college graduation. Exams, the pomp and circumstance, the family gathered to celebrate, anticipation (and fear) of what comes next, leaving home for the first time, saying good-bye to friends and classmates, … so much.
I think back to my graduation from the United States Naval Academy. There was so much happening at once: the family gathering to celebrate, the ceremony, saying good-bye to classmates, packing up with our first duty station orders in hand, and so busy that we weren’t aware of the moment at hand as we focused on what was coming next.
The Academy graduation has one iconic moment captured by photographers, amateur and professional, for more than 100 years. When all at once, more than 1,000 caps fly into the air, signifying the end of school for the young men and women and the beginning of their military service to our nation as Naval and Marine Corp officers. It is a moment in time. The young people who hurled their caps skyward – so young, in ways that same people who just four years before donned the cap and gown of their high schools. But when those caps fall to earth, they will still be so young, but in ways so different. Adults now – the teenager no longer – disciplined, steadfast, certain, and committed to serve their nation even at the price of their own lives. We were young, invincible, and ready – not a one of us grazing at the sky. But I wished that we had. I wish that moment could be frozen – 1000 caps in the sky – a whole lifetime ahead – a moment of quiet and solitude to consider the “sea change” that would begin when those caps fell to earth. A quiet moment to pray for the road ahead; to pray for what would sustain us.
All that promise and potential, so much future in one moment of time. As long as it took for a simple cap to rise and fall. As long as it took for Jesus to ascend to heaven.
Today we who believe pause amidst the tumult of our busy lives for an iconic moment, captured in Scripture and paintings throughout time. A moment frozen by the artist. Captured in our stained-glass window in the south transept – the Ascension of the Lord.
Once fishermen, laborers, tax collectors – but no more. Three years with Jesus, passing through the cauldron of the Passion and Death – becoming disciples and apostles called to “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.”
This year’s newly commissioned naval and marine corps officers will figure it out. Just like the apostles. They figured it out – in time, with the grace of God, and with the Power of the Holy Spirit.
We are not told of the immediate reaction of the apostles. They too were newly commissioned – take the gospel to the ends of the earth. In Luke’s gospel, the apostles have to be prompted by an angel to get going: “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky?” I wonder if the angel’s call to mission swept the Apostles past being in the one moment of the Ascension. Don’t know. But we do know that in one lifetime, the gospel was carried to the ends of the earth.
Perhaps years later, if that moment was replayed, the angel’sprompting of “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky?” would be answered with, “Hold your horses, I am looking at the sky, because I am taking this all in.” If they had taken a moment of Lenten quiet in the whirl of their Easter season, would they have known then what they later realized. One of them might have asked, “What is it that you are taking in?” The other might have responded, “Jesus, true God and true man, now sits at the right hand of the Father. Think about it, humanity has entered Heaven. We have been shown our destiny. We have been shown the desire and hope of the Father in heaven, that all people will come to their inheritance, will come home.”
All in one moment of time considered. All held contained in the time it took for a simple cap to rise and fall. As long as it took for Jesus to ascend to heaven. Sometimes it is the briefest of moments, held in the heart, contemplated, and considered that can reveal the depth of what we have been called to do.
As St. Paul writes to the Ephesians, a prayer for those moments – that we might recognize them and pray: “May the eyes of [our]hearts be enlightened, that [we]may know what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones, and what is the surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe”
Graduation, weddings, the birth of children, and so many more moments of time – and all the whirl that surrounds them and wants to push us into the waiting future. Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky?Be it life or angels, don’t let anyone rush you past the moment. Take a moment to ponder and reflect.
These 50 days from Easter Sunday to Pentecost have come and are almost gone. There is a lot whirling around our lives that make the quiet of Lent seem long ago and far away. Take the moment to step back and seek wisdom of God, the richest of his glory, and the surpassing power of his greatness.