Heaven

The Ascension of the Lord
Beloved in Jesus Christ, today we celebrate the Ascension of our Lord.
Jesus, having completed his earthly life, ascends up to heaven: ‘And he led them out and raising his hands, blessed them. As he blessed them he parted from them, and was taken up to heaven.’
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Well, we are supposed to do what Jesus did. Live our earthly life in faithfulness, like our Savior, and then be taken up to heaven like him. Heaven is our goal, it is the only goal worth pursuing; it is the most important goal, because if we do not reach heaven, everything else will be totally useless.
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How valuable is heaven? Jesus Christ has sacrificed his life on the cross for this, so that we can go there. St. Alphonsus says, ‘Most certainly, the greatest of all the torments of the damned in hell, is the thought of having lost heaven through their own fault.’
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In heaven we will have all that we desire; new beauties, delights, new joys. There, all our desires shall be satisfied. Heaven is described by St. John as a great City, it’s streets of pure gold, the walls are jewels, illuminated by the glory of God. Other images: flowers and meadows and streams, secret places to be and to love. Christ calls it ‘Paradise.’
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Once resurrected, our senses will be alive as never before in this life, hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting… Our hearing will be alive with the sounds of nature in the New World; our eyes will behold beauty never before seen on earth; smelling will be satisfied by heavenly scents – no doubt scents we never could perceive before. And taste will relish the banquets of heaven, so often referred to by Jesus.
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Greater than the sights of heaven, are the inhabitants of heaven. No bad people there, only very good. Anyone who makes it there, has every fault purged away; hearts will be shared with truly admirable persons, with no limits set to the passing of time. To hear the voice of a saint speak, talk to us – to sit perhaps by a quiet pond, visiting, hearing the voice of the Blessed Virgin speaking to us. St. Francis de Sales says, as the singing of the nightingale in the woods surpasses that of other birds, so the voice of Mary is superior to that of all the other saints. And yet, we will be with her and those we love, in that Paradise.
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But these delights can’t compare to the greatest: and that is to be with God, to see Jesus, to embrace him; to experience the love of God fully in our heart, in ecstasy as we have never experienced love before. Some of the saints on earth briefly experienced union with God. St. Peter Alcantara once experienced such an ecstasy of God’s love that he took hold of a large tree and pulled it up by its roots. When St. Teresa experienced union with God, it was so sweet, she said she could no longer be content with anything but God himself. The experience will be indescribable, and it will be our fulfillment.
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In his Ascension to heaven, Jesus shows us the way, it is what he wants for us; and this is why he spoke so often and forcefully about avoiding hell. The Holy Scriptures tell of the judgment we will each receive, determining whether we go to joy or to eternal misery: The Book of Life will be opened, and each will search anxiously for his name. ‘And scrolls were opened, and the Book of Life; and if anyone was not found written in the Book of Life, he was cast into the pool of fire.’
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The reprobate, not finding their name there, will become hysterical; they will be placed on the left to await condemnation. The devils will say to God, ‘This one now is mine, since in life he was unwilling to be yours.’ On that day the proud will be filled with utter dread; they will say, ‘we regarded Christians as fools who led humble lives, but now, we are really the fools.’
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The Lord will turn to his beloved and point in the Book of Life, their names written there. And to them Jesus says, ‘Rejoice, for your names are written in heaven.’ And he will bless their faith and their prayers and their tears, and receive each into his embrace.
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And he will say to the reprobate, ‘Depart from me you accursed into the everlasting fire. And as St. Ephrem says, these wicked will say farewell forever to their relatives, and farewell to heaven. ‘Goodbye Paradise. Farewell mother and father. Goodbye Mary, Mother of God.’ And a great pit will be opened, and their hideous bodies will descend into it forever, and the doors will shut, never to be opened again.
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Friends, heaven is our hope, and we must get there; we must. In heaven, all hearts will be revealed. There the child will see the true heart of his mother. He will know that it was the tears and prayers of his mother, which brought about his salvation. ‘O mother, he will say. ‘I used to love you because you gave me food and my needs, but now I love you a thousand times more because you won for me eternal life.’ How happy will be, those mothers and fathers who prayed their children into Paradise.
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One day at Mass, St. Augustine was describing the heavenly City to his people. He did so with a voice charged with emotion, with that golden eloquence of his. The people were deeply moved, and felt as if they were transported to heaven. Their emotion was so great, that tears flowed from every eye. The normal silence of Church was broken, each began to speak of the happiness of heaven.
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Hearing all these feelings and sighs, Augustine was surprised. He wanted to continue, but his own emotion stifled his voice. His tears mingled with theirs, as all longed for rest, in that heavenly homeland.
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Friends, heaven is the reason Jesus comes to us; in the end, he wants us there. He really wants us to be there. We must therefore do what he did: live a holy life – faithful – doing God’s will; so that on our last day, we too will Ascend to heaven.

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[Entrusted to the prayers of St. Joseph]

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