Hope for Those Just Passing Through
Today’s homily tells the story of a man who came to realize that we really don’t have a lasting home in this world; in truth we are all “just passing through.” The Solemnity of the Ascension which we celebrate today also reminds of us this fact. We should live our lives with our eyes fixed on heaven as the apostles eyes were fixed on Jesus as he ascended. As we sing in the liturgy today, “Where he has gone, we hope to follow.”
One would think that heaven would be an obvious goal for our lives, but do we really hope for heaven? Do we tend to think of heaven as simply the events of this world continuing on forever? Perhaps we wish for a place with only the good things in life and none of the bad. But still, if heaven is just more of this life stretched on forever, this seems more like a curse than a blessing. Heaven has got to be something radically different from the life we experience here.
Pope Benedict offers a cure for this thinking. He suggests that we see heaven not so much as “a place to go” but rather as a “person.” Heaven is not just some generic place of happiness. The joy of heaven comes precisely from being with Jesus. If we long to be with Jesus and live our lives set on this goal, then we will have our wish. We will experience the joy of being forever with the one we love. That indeed is something to look forward to with great hope.
Yet we need not wait until our death or Jesus’ return in glory to begin living this way. We’ve got to form this intimate relationship with Jesus right now in this life. In that respect, heaven really isn’t so radically different than this life. If our life is based on a relationship with Jesus, then we will find great joy in this life and will find ourselves very much at home when we get to heaven. This is the great hope held out for us today in the feast of the Ascension.