Gospel Reflection for Sunday the 16th of May 2021
The Ascension of Christ
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A few years ago, I read a book called The Fulfilment of All Desire by Ralph Martin. It is an excellent book to learn about the spiritual stages towards union with God based on the advice and experience of saintly Doctors of the Church. Many gems are to be found in this book. However, I have always found a piece of advice, from Martin himself, very helpful. He said that every day we must always keep in mind and find time to contemplate the four last things. Contemplating the four last things is to have a sort of compass to our daily Christian journey. What are the four last things? They are some of the truths of our faith: Heaven, Hell, Death and Judgement. If we remember these truths, then all our actions and decisions have the right perspective, and we have a better tendency towards behaving and choosing well.
I would like to focus on heaven in this reflection because the Gospel for this Sunday details to us the Ascension of Jesus into Heaven. The Gospel says that “the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them, was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God.” About this event the Catechism of the Church says “Jesus’ final apparition ends with the irreversible entry of his humanity into divine glory, symbolized by the cloud and by heaven, where he is seated from that time forward at God’s right hand” (No. 659). It goes on as well to say that “left to its own natural powers humanity does not have access to the ‘Father’s house,’ to God’s life and happiness. Only Christ can open to man such access that we, his members, might have confidence that we too shall go where he, our Head and our Source, has preceded us” (No. 661).
The Ascension of Jesus speaks to us about the reality of heaven and also the hope that we too can go where Jesus has gone. Every Christian’s goal in life is to reach the unending bliss of being with God in Heaven. We could ask ourselves: Do I realise that my life goal is to go where Jesus is now? Do I see my life choices every day in the context of heaven? Do I consciously strive to stir up my heart to hope for heaven? It is easy to get so caught up in this world which is far more apparent to us than the spiritual world. It requires a constant raising of our minds and hearts above this world in faith to really remind ourselves that we belong to a much greater reality than we can see with our eyes. We can become better at recalling heavenly realities throughout the day if we fix some time every day just to sit and contemplate for a few minutes the reality of heaven.
Making it a daily habit to recall to our minds the truth of heaven is crucial to our spiritual lives. It can fill us with the joy and peace that we need to strengthen us to go through the trials and struggles of life on earth. It can also make us more attentive with our life choices because what we do in this life does echo in eternity. We can lose heaven if we refuse to struggle to follow the Lord and repent of our sins. However, for those who do struggle with their sin by constantly seeking the Lord’s forgiveness and grace, can have a firm hope in reaching heaven. This is because Jesus promises salvation to those who follow His commandments and come to the sacraments.
Let us from now on make it a daily commitment to contemplate the four last things. Let us burn with a desire for heaven. Let us make time for prayer so that the desire will grow more deeply in us. The truth is, if we ask Jesus, He will give us the grace to grow in our desire to be with Him in Heaven.
-Fr Jesse Maingot OP