Acts 1: 1-11 Ephesians 1: 17-23 Mark 16: 15-20
Dear Friends! For the past seven weeks we have been celebrating the most joyous season of the Catholic liturgical year. The Easter season has filled us with immense joy and profound hope. The Lord has truly risen.
Today, we celebrate the Ascension of the Lord into Heaven. The risen and glorified Jesus physically returns to the Father. We await with joyful expectation his return in glory. Where he has gone, we hope to follow. This is our ultimate goal: get to Heaven.
What is Heaven? Heaven has been defined for us in the Catechism of the Catholic Church with these words: “Those who die in God’s grace and friendship and are perfectly purified live forever with Christ. They are like God for ever, for they see him as he is, face to face. This perfect life with the Most Holy Trinity – this communion of life and love with the Trinity, with the Virgin Mary, the angels and all the blessed – is called heaven. Heaven is the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness” (1023 – 1024).
In the Gospels, Jesus speaks of this mystery through images. He calls it the kingdom, a place of life, light and peace. He refers to it as a wedding feast, the Father’s house, the heavenly Jerusalem and paradise.
Saint Paul tells us that “no eye has seen, nor ear has heard, nor the heart of man conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2: 9). And Saint John tells us that in Heaven “we shall see him as he really is” (1 John 3: 2).
Life confined to the boundaries of time and space without the promise of eternal life would be cruel and unbearable to live. Without the certainty of an eternal paradise, the trials and tribulations of this present life would have no meaning and purpose.
The judgments of time will be corrected by the judgments of eternity. The injustices of this world will be replaced by the justice of the world to come. The tears shed now, will be replaced by the joy lived forever in eternal life.
The martyrs throughout the history of the Catholic Church were able to sustain unbearable trials precisely because they were certain of a place called Heaven. They were able to persevere and resist sin because their love for the next life was greater than their love for this present life.
There is a Heaven and we need to get there. There is a Hell, and we need to do everything that we can to avoid the possibility of losing our immortal soul. Our number one priority is to get to Heaven. Ascension is about our destiny. It says that we are destined to a life beyond the one which we now enjoy. We are destined to be with God in a union which cannot be destroyed by death.
Ascension is about our present world. It calls us Christians to continue the mission of Christ on earth. Christ’s mission was not just to give us hope for the future, but to change the quality of life here and now, so that we can begin to experience already now the riches of eternal life to come. Jesus entrusted this mission to his disciples when he said, “’Go into the whole world and proclaim the Good News to all creation”.
Ascension is about ending and beginnings. On the day of his ascension, Christ’s personal ministry on earth ended, but the operation of the Holy Spirit in his followers to continue his ministry began. Once the liturgical celebration of the feast of ascension is over, our work of witnessing to whatever we believe in Christ has to begin. We come to church to praise God, to hear his word and to eat his bread. But we don’t stand here all day looing up to heaven. We leave this place to witness to Christ in the world. Christ has no one else except us, to continue his mission. As Teresa of Avila would put it; “Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours; yours are the eyes through which he is to look out to the world with compassion; yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good, and yours are the hands with which he is to bless us now.”