Homily for Ascension | Fr. Andy

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This weekend we celebrate the Ascension, where Jesus, after appearing to the Apostles and many other disciples in the forty days after the Resurrection, Jesus ascended into Heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father.

Heaven.  What is Heaven really like?  It’s one of the most frequent questions that I get asked.  It is a good thing to think about and ponder.

My brother-in-law’s dad died a few weeks ago and we were talking last weekend and he asked me the question in a roundabout way, “what is Heaven like?”  Since his dad died he has been thinking about Heaven more and more.

Bottom line is: we don’t know.  We have an idea, we get small glimpses or insights from scripture, occasionally we will hear stories of near death experiences, for whatever that is worth.  But we really don’t know for sure.

Despite not knowing, I have a few thoughts that I like to share with people when they ask.

First, God loves us, all of us, so very much, that He, in His love and mercy, at the end of our earthly life, He gives us what we love the most.  

If we love fishing the most, we will get put on a beautiful lake with huge fish.

If we love boating the most, we will get a boat and it will be on a beautiful river that never floods.

If we love golfing the most, we will get to golf every single day at a beautiful course and we will make every single shot.

The only downside is that we will be all alone.  We will catch beautiful fish, and have nobody to share it with.  We will have beautiful days on the river, but nobody to enjoy it with.  We will make amazing hole-in-ones, and have nobody to celebrate it with.

Without anyone else, it will lack all love, it will be boring, and it will truly be hell. Hell is simply a lack of love, specifically a lack of love of God.

But we had that choice on earth, to choose the love of God or love of any of the false gods that we could put before Him.

God’s mercy allows us to have what we wanted here, because it would actually be worse for everyone who chose to put the fishing, boating and golfing gods ahead of the one true God, those people wouldn’t be able to handle the love of the true God.

At the Ascension that we read in today’s Gospel from Mark, Jesus tells them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”  In Matthew, a scholar asked Jesus, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” [Jesus] said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment.

So, if we really love God with all our heart and soul and mind, we will put Him before all those other gods that want our attention, ultimately all the distractions of this world.  And God will honor our love for Him by bringing us to Heaven with Him.

But what is Heaven really like?  It will be amazing and so much more than we can imagine here.  We are so limited in our senses here, by the way we act, by the way we love, by the way we get bored… in heaven there won’t be boredom because there is no boredom in true love.

In Heaven, there will be true worship, worship of Jesus, the lamb of God, worship of God the Father, worship of the Holy Spirit even.  We see glimpses of that in the Book of Revelation.  They are very similar to Mass, singing Holy Holy Holy and Glory to God in the Highest.

Heaven will be the praise and worship of God mixed with the celebration, the wedding feast of the lamb.  Jesus used many analogies of the Kingdom and what Heaven might be like, but I’m sorry, even Jesus’ analogies fall short… we really can’t comprehend what Heaven will be like, it will be way more, and way better than we can possibly imagine.

Jesus ascends to Heaven to give us the hope that there is something more, there is something better than just this world.  He is trying to teach us not to just live for this world, our true home is in Heaven, whatever it looks like.

Jesus came to open up the gates to heaven for us, He goes before us to prepare a place for us, and He leaves people here to do His work.  As Christians, that responsibility falls on us all, but He doesn’t leave us alone.  

At the end of our Gospel from Mark we hear: “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”  Jesus is with us in many ways, two primaries, one in His real presence in the Eucharist in every tabernacle in the world.

And two is through the Holy Spirit.  We heard Jesus promise that at the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles when he said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses... to the ends of the earth.

You see, God is still with us.  He is in Heaven and He is also here, leading us and guiding us forward every day so that we can join Him at the end of our Earthly life.

I pray that through it all we would keep our eyes fixed on Heaven, trusting in Jesus that Heaven will not disappoint, rather it will exceed our wildest imagination.