“We offer Thee, O Lord Jesus, this twelfth decade in honor of Thy glorious Ascension, and we ask of Thee, through this mystery and through the intercession of Thy Blessed Mother, a firm hope and a great longing for Heaven.”
Jesus was born in Bethlehem, which means “house of bread”, to help establish that He was indeed the Bread of Life. He chose Bethany, which means “house of obedience”, to be the site where He gave His followers His final blessing before His ascension. Venerable Bede explains this significance. “It is appropriate that He led those who He blessed out to Bethany, which is interpreted “house of obedience”. Contempt and pride deserved a curse, but obedience deserved a blessing. The Lord Himself was made obedient to His Father even unto death, so that He might restore the lost grace of blessing to the world. He gives the blessing of heavenly life only to those who strive in the holy Church to comply with the divine commands.”
“If you love me, keep my commandments,” Jesus told them. And He meant it. His entire life was an act of obedience, and in ascending to Heaven from Bethany, He revealed the path we are to take to salvation. We must remain firmly rooted in His “house of obedience”, which is His Church, careful to obey all God has commanded. And while we do not actually know what awaits us in Heaven, He showed us a taste of what is to come. In His ascension, He demonstrated in a most spectacular way, how richly the obedient will be rewarded.
Hope lives in the hearts of Christian who possess a lively faith. Without a firm belief in Jesus’ divinity, we could not hope in His promises. His resurrection established His divinity freeing us to hope in all He promised, knowing God would not inspire us to strive for something we could not obtain.
But do we really want Heaven? Do we live each day with a heart aching to be united with God? Do our daily actions point us towards His Kingdom or do we spend our time focused on worldly matters? When we make plans for our future, are they geared towards pleasure and worldly gain or for a Heavenly reward? The ways of the world easily tempt us to go astray. That wide, well-beaten path is so easy to travel, most of us do not realize we are on it. We comfort ourselves with “The Lord is merciful,” and continue on our way, refusing to admit which path we are really on.
It is true that God’s mercy is vast, but mercy will not save us if it is all we are counting on. St. Gregory points out this error in thinking when he says, “Let him who does all that he can, rely firmly on the mercy of God. But for him who does not do all that lies within his power, to rely upon the mercy of God would be simple presumption.” Meditate on this quote. This is not the kind of message we hear much anymore, but how many more souls could be saved if we did! We must continually “strive in the holy Church to comply with the divine commands,” trusting in the guidance of Christ’s Church and all He promised to those within His “house of obedience”.
Plan for your entrance into Heaven with as much zeal and excitement as you would plan for a long awaited vacation. Research as much as you can to make sure you are not found lacking anything when you arrive at Heaven’s gate. Read Church approved books such as The Four Last Things: Death, Judgment, Hell, Heaven to help you to focus on the glories and unending happiness awaiting you in Heaven, and inspire you to sacrifice worldly lures for the love of God. “The good that I hope for,” says St. Francis, “is so great that every suffering becomes for me a pleasure.” When we follow His commands, we are justified in our hope of Heaven, which He merited for us through His death and resurrection. And in return for this hope, the Psalms assure us of our reward. “Because he hath hoped in Me, I will deliver him; I will protect him.”
“Grace of the mystery of the Ascension of Our Lord, come down into my soul and make me ready for Heaven.”