Lift up your hearts, and refuse to forget the joy of being human!

In the event of Jesus Christ’s ascension, we learn and are invited into the reality that the one who became poor, who is found with the lost and vulnerable, who is met in in the lowly, the outcast, and the stranger, is raised to – returns to – the heights of heaven, “the altitude of God himself,” which is also our origin and our destiny. This refusal of forgetfulness of who we are as human persons is essential in the fight against injustice. Take a moment to slowly read these words on Christ’s ascension by Pope Benedict XVI (then – Joseph Ratzinger):

Christ’s Ascension is therefore not a spectacle for the disciples but an event in which they themselves are included. It is a sursum corda [“Lift up your hearts”], a movement toward the above into which we are all called. It tells us that man can live toward the above, that he is capable of attaining heights.

More: the altitude that alone is suited to the dimensions of being human is the altitude of God Himself. Man can live at this height, and only from this height do we properly understand him. The image of man has been raised up, but we have the freedom to tear it down or to let ourselves be raised. We do not understand man when we ask only where he comes from. We understand him only when we also ask where he can go. Only from his height is his essence really illuminated. And only when this height is perceived does there awaken an absolute reverence for man that considers him still holy even in his humiliation. Only from there can we really learn to love the human condition [Menschsein] in ourselves and in the other…

For this reason it is also not right, as we sometimes hear it said today, that faith must keep mankind’s subversive memory alive, which hinders us from resigning ourselves to the injustice of this world. Indeed, faith does teach us the memory of the Cross and of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. But this memory is not subversive. It reminds us certainly that the image of Adam has fallen, but it reminds us above all that this image has been raised up again and even as fallen ever remains the image of God’s beloved creature. Faith hinders our forgetfulness. Indeed, it awakens in us the actual buried memory of our origin: that we come from God; and it adds the new remembrance that is expressed in the feast of Christ’s Ascension: namely, that the actual true place of our existing is God Himself and that we must ever view man from this vantage point. The memory of faith is in this sen-se a quite positive memory. It sets free again the positive basic measure of man. And recognizing this is a much more effective protection against the belittlement of man than the mere memory of negations that in the end can leave only contempt of man. The most effective counterforce to the corruption of man lies in the memory of his greatness, not in the memory of his defilement. Christ’s Ascension impresses on us the memory of greatness. It immunizes us against the false moralism of the disparagement of man.  It teaches us respect and gives us back the joy of being human. (“The Ascension: The Beginning of a New Nearness,” in Images of Hope: Meditations on Major Feasts)

Lift up your hearts…

– Greg Walgenbach, Director of Life, Justice & Peace, Diocese of Orange