Hope in heaven

The Ascension
Beloved in the Lord, after Jesus Christ rose from the dead, he spent 40 days with many of his disciples – that’s a month and a half. They lived and spoke with Jesus, passed time with him – with the only man who has ever gloriously risen from the dead.
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They saw in Christ, this future which could be theirs as well. St. John writes about that experience: ‘I write of what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked upon and our hands have touched: the Word of Life.’
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For 3 years Christ had tried to teach them of his plan for humanity. But it didn’t sink in. Now, for 40 days, they could see it for themselves: a glorified man. You can just hear their elation in the writings of the Apostles: ‘We now testify and announce to you, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, the Life Eternal which has appeared to us.’
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Friends, we ourselves will not only be resurrected one day, God-willing, but we will also be taken to heaven to be united with God. Jesus shows us this: at the end of his earthly life, he Ascended up to Paradise – we are supposed to follow him: ‘And it came to pass as he blessed them, that he was carried up into heaven and a cloud took him out of their sight.
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Today we celebrate the Ascension of Christ into heaven. The Holy Scriptures tell us that after Jesus had disappeared from sight, the apostles were looking up at the sky, and this shows us that their minds were now on heaven.  
– Our minds should be on heaven –
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A good friend of mine, when his mother suddenly died, he was devastated. He felt lost without his mother. But a friend gave him a book to read about heaven; for the first time in his life, he really understood how important are the promises of Jesus and our Holy Faith. ‘Now I know, that Mom is not dead, but alive,’ he said; ‘and if I can get to heaven I will be with her again.’ His life changed, because now his mind was on getting to heaven.
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Our whole life is rushing toward this goal; heaven is our hope.
Hope is the desire for something that will fulfill our happiness. Hope is always on something that is not so easy to obtain, but it is obtainable.
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A boy being trained by his coach has hope that he will win. Hope in achieving his goal, makes him work hard; and this hope of victory already gives him happiness.
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A man told me, ‘when I first met my future wife, I said ‘I want to marry that girl.’ That was his hope. Hope is for something somewhat difficult to achieve, but possible. He had to work at it; he had to show the girl he was a man of good character and complete his education – yet in all of this he was driven by hope: hope that he could win her hand.
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When a goal that we desire cannot be achieved, then hope is gone; we experience despair. Many today are without hope. Some don’t believe they can achieve any goals. ‘I’ll never find a job; ‘I’ll never find a good husband;’ ‘I can’t pass these classes.’ To be without any hope, is despair and that means sadness. Others, because of past failures, become jaded and cynical, and this too is lacking in any hope.
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Another requirement for hope is that the goal we have can be achieved, but it will not be easy to achieve. If a girl from a rich family is spoiled: given a new car, a huge allowance, college all paid-for, and anything she wants; she may have no hope, because hope is for a goal that is not easy to achieve; but if everything is easy, she has no hope. So we can see how important it is in life to have hope, it is important for our happiness.
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Now attaining many of these goals – winning the track meet, marrying the girl – fulfilling our hopes – once achieved, we are not always so fulfilled. And this is because earthly hopes are important, but they are not the real source of happiness.
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If you read the life of St. Alphonsus, you will see that SO MANY things did not work out for him; his plans fell apart many times; and on top of it all, his health was utterly horrible. When he was 52 years old he believed the end of his life was near because his body was totally falling apart. Little did he know that he had yet 40 more painful years to live!
He had arthritis in his back so bad, that he could no longer lift his head off of his chest – 19 years like that. But in all of this and all his failed projects, he never lost hope. Why? Because under all those ‘little hopes’ of his projects, was a much larger, underlying hope: hope in Jesus, hope in heaven.
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The Lord’s Ascension up to heaven gives us hope, because he leads the way. The apostles were not sad when Jesus Ascended, it says that they had great joy. The Ascension gave them the certainty that they had a friend, not only on earth but in heaven. And this filled them with the hope that not only would they see him again, but that Jesus would be living in them, working with them.
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We have our hopes and dreams, we have hopes for certain earthly projects, which may or may not work out as we wish. But our joy and peace should always be grounded in the great hope of a Christian. As St. Paul says: ‘May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace, so that by the Holy Spirit you may ever abound in hope.
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Hope in Jesus – hope in heaven, this leads us to someone else too, who will help us: Mary. What did the Apostles do after the Ascension? It says that they returned to Jerusalem to pray with Mary. They went right to their Mother.
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Let us too stay close to this Mother during our time on earth, until we rejoice with her and with Jesus in the glory of heaven.

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[Entrusted to the prayers of Mother Teresa]

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