Have you considered the energy and power behind the word “up,” especially when it comes before or after another word? Let us consider some examples: upward, upcoming, upgrade, update, wake up, brighten up, open up, take up, stir up, build up, and look up. You would observe that when one removes the “up” from these words, they tend to lose their vitality and dynamism.
In the First Reading (Acts 7:55-60), we read the story of the death of Stephen; the first Christian martyr. The Jewish authorities at the time accused him blasphemy for preaching about the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and hatched a plan to stone him to death. In the narrative, we learn that Stephen was filled with the Holy Spirit and looking up to heaven; he saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.
The Gospel Reading (John 17:20-26) on the other hand tells us about the priestly prayer of our Lord Jesus Christ which focuses on the oneness of his followers and their need for divine provision and protection. The passage starts with our Lord Jesus Christ Looking up to heaven. There is something about looking up that the liturgy of the word of this Sunday wants us to learn especially following the ascension of our Lord into heaven which left the apostles gazing up towards heaven (Acts 1:10).
Looking up means redirecting our attention; changing our focus from a lower region to a higher one. In the Book of Psalms (121:1-2) David exclaims, “I lift up my eyes to the hills- from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth”. The life and ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ show a constant looking up to heaven for divine encounter.
After his baptism he looked up, the heavens opened, and the Spirit of God descended upon him like a dove, and the voice of the Father comes saying, “This is my son the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matt. 3:16-17). Before the miracle of the five loaves of bread and two fish, Jesus looked up to heaven and gave thanks to God, and there was multiplication that fed five thousand people excluding women and children (Mark 9:14-16)
Moving Forward: Look Up to God!
To look up to heaven means looking up to God. In the Letter to the Colossians (3:1-2), St. Paul instructs as follows; “If you have been raised with Christ seek the things that are above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above not on things that are on earth”. From these words of St. Paul, we understand that Looking up is a mindset, in fact, a heavenly mindset and an important key to success. The apostles would receive the Holy Spirit after the ascension of the Lord because they went up to the UPPER ROOM from where they kept looking up to heaven in prayer (Acts 1:13-14).
In life, we often look up to people and to certain events to take us from one point to the other. Often, we get more stressed than blessed, more frustrated than favored, and more setbacks than success when we keep looking around for help and assistance. David says my help shall come from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
We need to look up to God because His love would never fail (Psalm 136), and He is always faithful (1 Cor. 1:9). We need to look up to God because He would supply all our needs according to His riches in glory (Phil.4:19). We need to look up to God because He cares about us even when our closest relatives abandon us (Psalm 27:10). We need to look up to God because His goodness and mercies are forever (Psalm 23:6).
As we celebrate the last but one Sunday of Easter and look forward to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, let us stop looking back and looking around but resolve to look up to the Lord whose steadfast love and mercies never end. If you don’t look up, you screw up and God will not raise you up, and you may end up giving up. So brace up as we move up to the Lord in the Holy Eucharist. Have a glorious Sunday and a beautiful week ahead. God bless you!