Ascension - May 20, 2012

Today we celebrate the Ascension of our Lord Jesus into heaven as He brings our human nature right into the very Life of the Holy Trinity, to the right hand of God our Father.  The Ascension of our Lord Jesus completes the goal of His Incarnation.  The Eternal Son of God became Man, taking on our human nature in order to die for our sins.  Then He rises from the dead and now He even takes that same human nature with Him as He ascends into the very Life of God Himself, divinizing that Human nature.  Forever, our Living God has a real human nature.  Our Lord Jesus, true God and true Man, is our greatest hope and He is the way for any one of us to also enter into God’s own Life.

Today we also pray with our seniors who will graduate from high school this week.  Whatever path you choose remember that God has a plan of love for your life.  We pray for each of you as you graduate , that you will always remember your whole life is a gift and that your ultimate goal is to get to heaven.  The Ascension of our Lord Jesus really points us to that ultimate “graduation”, in which we hope that by God’s gift our human nature (including our real human bodies) will be lifted up into God’s own Life, divinized, becoming like God Himself so that we too can live forever in perfect happiness.

In our 2nd reading, St. Paul urges us to remember this goal praying for us as he writes; “May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call.”  Everything else we choose in life is meant to be a help towards this one goal, to help us come to know God, fall in Love with God, and choose to follow our Lord Jesus all the way into the eternal Life of God Himself.  If anything or anyone in our life takes us away from God, or makes us forget the goal of heaven, then we will be in danger of losing eternal life forever, by our own choice of something far less.

Each moment we are either choosing heaven or hell, and over time our choices become more and more solidified.  Someone who doesn’t practice their Faith in Jesus Christ, only becomes more and more miserable, because their “no” is becoming deeper and deeper.  I know a priest in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, just above Wisconsin, and he told me a story of a man who had not been practicing his Catholic Faith.  In fact over time, this man had become very bitter at the Church.  So when he became very sick and was in the hospital, the priest tried to visit him to offer him the sacraments.  The man saw the priest and with bitterness, swore at the priest and told him to get out and never come back.  As he left, the priest prayed for the man, but a few days later, the hospital staff heard a blood curdling scream come from this man’s room late at night.  As the staff rushed to the room, the man shouted out in fear, “it is the devil!” and then he died.  It is a very sad story, but it shows how our free will can really choose against God.

So on this Ascension, we must really ask ourselves if I am indeed choosing God, not just by lip service, but by my actions… by practicing my faith, going to Mass each Sunday, going to confession regularly, and receiving Jesus Christ in Holy Communion.  All these actions is how we say “yes” to heaven… how we prepare for the ultimate graduation and can even look forward with hope as death approaches because if we die in the state of grace, we are destined to live forever in God’s own Life… with a brand new body too!
One young modern saint who said “yes” to heaven by the way he lived his life was Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, a son of an Italian senator who also owned the Italian newspaper “La Stampa.”  By the time he was 17 years of age, Pier had grown into a deep love for God, even going to daily Mass to receive our Lord Jesus in Holy Communion.  All these “yes’s” to God’s Love and Grace formed Pier Giorgio into a courageous young man of charity who loved to serve the poor and the sick he found in Turin, Italy.  He used to even give his bus fare money away to some poor person and then run home so that he wouldn’t be late for supper.  He was active in good Catholic action, trying to better society even as Communists and Facists were slowly trying to control Italy. 

Pier loved sports, mountain climbing, and time with good friends.  He had a very positive influence on his friends, helping them to grow in their faith.  He went to college to study mining engineering but just before graduating from college he came down with a sickness which the doctors surmised he caught during one of his many visits to the sick and poor.  For six days he suffered greatly, but even in his final illness, his thoughts were about his grandmother who was also dying at the time.  On the night before he died, with a paralyzed hand he was able to scribble out one final note to a friend, asking him to take the medicine needed for injections to be given to Converso, a poor sick man he had been visiting. 

He died on July 4, 1925, almost overlooked by his own family, but during his funeral, people lined the streets in great numbers, many of whom were the poor and sick he had served for 7 years.  These poor ones were surprised to discover that Pier had actually been the heir to the influential Frassati family.  In 1981, his body was found to be incorrupt and was moved to the cathedral in Turin.  And in 1990, Pope John Paul II beatified Pier Giorgio… this young saint who had just missed his college graduation because he had prepared for the greatest graduation of all… saying “yes” to heaven by a life lived in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We too must keep our eyes on Jesus Christ who has ascended to the right hand of the Father and who wants us to live forever in our eternal Father’s Love too.  Every day is a practice in how we are going to die… how we are going to graduate to a new life forever in heaven, or forever choose an eternal death forever without God.

Mary Immaculate, pray for us now and at the hour of our death, so that our hearts may say “yes” to God’s Love and to heaven.  And if we ever say “no” to God by choosing sin, or choosing not to practice our Faith in Jesus Christ by real acts of virtue, do what ever it takes to guide us back to the Sacred Heart of Jesus our King who loves us so much.