Is heaven a place where Jesus ascended out of this world? Is it above the world, just as Hades was thought to be part of the underworld? As a child I thought of heaven as place above where Jesus ascended. Now I know that Heaven is the fullness of life with God which I cannot imagine since it is not confined to time or place.
The Risen Lord returns to the community of the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Mary and all the Angels and saints are also present there and see God face to face in glory. We will also be there when our earthly pilgrimage is over and we enter to see the face of God. But God is also present to us in the earthly realities and finiteness of our human existence. In moments of contemplation, when we am silent within, there is a longing to be one with God. The psalmist says: "O God you are my God; for you I long; for you my soul is thirsting. My body pines for you, like a dry, weary land without water."(ps 63) In psalm 42, he cries: "Like the deer that yearns for running streams, so my soul is yearning for you my God." We want to surrender ourselves and all that we are and have to Him in love. We can then ascend into his presence and have a brief glimpse of what lies ahead of us.
The things of this world satisfy us for a while. Like children, we enjoy the taste, the colour, the sound of music, the fragrance of perfumed flowers, the warmth of an embrace or the cooling touch that heals. But all these do not satisfy for long. Some times when two good friends share a moment together, there is a moment of togetherness and friendship that is joyful and life-giving. It can be through a letter, a phone call or a meeting. All these are passing moments compared to eternal bliss. Yet they are also fore-tastes and pledges of what God has in store for us. We are called as channels of God's life-giving love to each other, to give others such encounters with God, right now. For God is love and where there is love, there is God.
Death is the gateway from a life of grace to a life of glory. "We now experience God like a dim image in a mirror. Then we shall see him face to face." (1 Cor 13:12) Jesus' Ascension into Heaven gives us hope and courage to face life's trials which will end. We look forward to the fullness of life, when this pilgrimage is over. Yet God's kingdom has already entered into our world with Jesus. We all have a part to play in building up this kingdom now, in the power of the Holy Spirit.
In Mt 25, Jesus reminds us that whatever we do or do not do to the least of his brothers and sisters, we do or do not do unto him. Now through a life of service and reaching out to the poor and the marginalized, we are called to exercise stewardship of all the gifts and opportunities God has invested in us. The bread or cup of water we offer someone is a pledge of the bread of life and the living waters Jesus offers us. Dives did not offer poor Lazarus this food and drink because he was not even aware of his existence. He was too busy feeding his own appetites. So after death he was in Hades while Lazarus was in Abraham's bosom.(Lk 16:19-31)
The eternal banquet is offered to all of us. Now is the time to make a reservation, by the way we share God's life and love with those in need. Amen.