Ascending to where we belong

Chinobhururuka chinomhara. What goes up comes down. This is true of birds (except for swifts which live their whole lives – and even mate - in the sky!) and planes. But it is the other way round for humans. They have to go down if they are to go up. The successful person is the one who knows their gifts - and the knowledge only comes from digging deep within.

True, our language seems to put us with the birds. We speak of ‘high flyers’ and ‘peak experiences’, climbing the ladder and being top of the class. And we speak of the reverse; being ‘low’, ‘down in the dumps’, being a failure, depressed and desolate. But, if we go into it, the real high flyers are those who have experienced terrible low moments. Is there an artist or a writer who has not struggled to find their way? And is there a saint who has not first wrestled with their own demons? Augustine did. So did Ignatius.

John’s gospel has one over-arching theme; God came down to dwell among us so that we might rise and dwell with him. ‘Ascending’ and ‘descending’ appear early on (1:51). In Paul’s words, ‘He emptied himself and became as humans are … even accepting death … But God raised him high.’ We say the words easily enough – ‘The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us’ – but is this not astonishing, even for the person of faith, who tries to hold onto this statement?

The descent of God to live with us and for us has only one purpose; that we might ascend with him so that all the seeds in our humanity come to full flower. This beautiful earth, that we are so close to destroying, is the ground, the stage, where our whole engagement with our humanity is played out. And the only way it can be played is by following the way the Son of Man has mapped out for us.

We have to empty out all the debris in our lives – ‘blessed are the poor in spirit’ – and make room for what is truly human, which is what we call the divine. And what is this? Well, again John introduces his ascending theme but this time it is the ‘lifting up of the Son of Man as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert.’ (3:13). The cross is the key to the ascension of human beings. There is no other way. And it even seems to be written into nature. I saw a video clip recently of a buffalo being killed by lions. It was horrible. And I pondered. Why? Why? Why is the natural world so full of suffering? Mysteriously we seem to have left our mark on everything around us and Paul talks of ‘creation having frustration imposed upon it’ (Rom 8:20). It is all highly disturbing.

Post published in: Faith

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