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James Tissot “The Ascension” (Detail) Brooklyn Museum

A late 19th-century artist, James Tissot graphically posed a question for us today. In his depiction of the Ascension, he asks, “Why do you stand looking up into heaven? (Act 1:11)

In the full picture, Jesus is rising up as the disciples watch him disappear into the clouds. If you look closely at the picture, not in the clouds, but on the ground, you can see footprints on the earth. The artist has carefully etched Jesus’ footprints down on the level where the disciples are standing with their mouths open looking up to the sky. The footprints are leading to someplace else on earth.

Looking for Jesus’ footprints today

His drawing attention to Jesus’ footprints sets my mind exploring. Instead of looking up to the heavens, should we be looking for Jesus’ footprints around us?.

Shouldn’t Vincentians be looking for his footprints on earth today?

Blessed Rosalie Rendu certainly saw Jesus’ footprints in the streets of Paris. ”I never pray so well as I do in the streets!”

Vincent de Paul certainly did 400 years ago.

Much earlier Mary missed Jesus because she was looking for Jesus in the wrong place. She thought man she saw was “just” a gardener.

 Going back even further into Old Testament times, Jacob “when he awoke from his sleep shouted, “You were here all the time, and I never knew it!” (Genesis 28:16).

Jesus’ footprints in the pages of the Bible

Rev. Dr. Barbara K. Lundblad writes

  • Can you see Jesus walking on the wrong side of the street with the wrong people?
  • Can you see Jesus walking up to a sycamore tree, then looking up at Zacchaeus, the tax collector, perched in the branches? “Come down, Zacchaeus,” Jesus said, “let’s walk over to your house for dinner.”
  • Can you see Jesus walking, then riding, into Jerusalem?
  • Can you see him stumbling toward Golgotha, loving us to the very end?

Jesus’ footprints in our world today

Deacon Greg Kandra takes looking for the footprints of Jesus a step further.

I’ve come to realize that the most enduring footprints of Christ are not to be found on a pebbled hilltop in the Middle East. They are not on stone or clay. I’m not sure you can even take a picture of them. They are the footprints he has left on lives. And they are everywhere — too numerous, really, to count.

You will find them in New York City, at the Catholic Worker, where volunteers ladle soup every day to dozens of homeless men and women. His footprints are there, in the soup line.

You will find his footprints on the marble floors of great cathedrals and on the plain planks of roadside chapels, where believers of many faiths gather to sit and kneel, to listen and pray.

You will find them on the floors of nurseries where mothers walk all night caring for their sick infants, and on the coffee-stained carpets of church basements, where weekly AA meetings are held; they are found in velvet-draped reconciliation rooms where burdens are emptied; they are in diners and laundromats, in bus stations and on train platforms, in crisis centers and nail salons.

If we look carefully enough we might even find Jesus’ footprints in our own streets and in our living rooms.

Vincentians looking for the footprints of Jesus

  • Where have I been looking for the footprints of Jesus?
  • Do I recognize them when I see them around me?
  • Do I accept that I am the footprint of Jesus today?

PS For another take on Jesus’ footprints visit the Wiki article on the poem “Footprints in the Sand

Click below for an early version of this Vincentian Mindwalk

Looking for Jesus’ Footprints
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