Ascension Thursday

ascension

After Our Lord had consoled the Apostles by appearing to them at different times, and by wishing them peace, He declared at last that He was about to leave this world and ascend to heaven “to prepare a place for them.”

On this day, for the last time, He came to visit the Apostles. He promised to send them the divine Spirit, the Spirit of strength and wisdom. He said that the time had arrived for Him to go from them to remain in the enjoyment of His peace. He raised His hands, blessed them, and took leave of them all, as well as of His dear Mother. He then conducted them to the Mount of Olives. There they listened to His words, with their eyes fixed upon Him, when suddenly He was raised above them; higher and higher still He was borne, until a light cloud withdrew Him from their sight. While they were beholding Him going up to heaven, suddenly two angels stood by them, who said, “Ye men of Galilee, why stand you looking up to heaven?” This same Jesus whom you have just seen ascending into heaven will return again at the end of the world to judge mankind. He will then appear in the same form in which you have just seen Him. You ought then, my dear young friends, joyfully do all that He has commanded you before He left you, that you may be well received by Him on His return. The disciples fell to the ground and adored their Lord and Master, and then returned to Jerusalem; where they retired to a quiet place, and remained in prayer until the coming of the Holy Ghost.

My dear young people, who can imagine the great triumph with which the King of glory was received on His entrance into heaven. The whole court of heaven was there, ready to meet its Master and Creator. All came forward to make their submission to the great Conqueror of the world and the devil, who has returned in triumph. These good souls must have been in an ecstasy of joy when they saw the great Hero; they looked with wonder on those wounds, which shone like stars. As He entered heaven they joined Him singing hymns and canticles to the great glory of God; then they conducted Him to His throne in heaven, where He sits at the right hand of His Father.

Our Lord, my dear young friends, left this world and ascended into heaven, to prepare a place for us; we had lost heaven, but He regained it for us. He again opened heaven to us, that pleasant, happy place, which will be our home for all eternity. As long as we live on this earth, we shall have to suffer many evils, sickness, and, finally, death, but in heaven we shall have everything; riches, happiness, enjoyment; we shall be inebriated with torrents of delight. The angels will be our companions, the saints will be there, and Mary and Jesus, too. We shall enjoy the happiness that God gives; we shall see God’s omnipotence, with which He created heaven and earth; we shall see His wisdom and providence, by which all created things are governed; we shall see all the perfections and attributes of God clearly. We shall then see the Son of God in the Godhead, and Jesus in His divine person. We shall be filled with the Holy Ghost. We shall see God in the splendor of His glory on a throne of majesty; the centre and source of all the joy and brightness of heaven. If one little drop of that heavenly joy should fall from heaven into hell, it would sweeten the dreadful pains that are felt there.

But, my dear young friends, remember that if you wish to attain the possession of this happiness and to reign with Jesus, you must not look for your heaven here on this earth; those who enjoy this world will hardly enjoy heaven. Many wish to give full sway to their passions here, and then expect to have the reward of heaven also. But they are foolish, for if they indulge their passions here in this world, they defile their souls, and cannot enter heaven. If you want to get to heaven, keep the law of God, keep the commandments of the Church, observe the laws of the state, and you will have a right to its joys.

Not only should we observe the commandments of God, but we must also join to it the imitation of Jesus Christ if we wish to possess the place which He has prepared for us in heaven. My dear children, Jesus Christ is the model that is set before us and we must imitate Him just as the artist does who has a model before him; he marks the outlines, and then faithfully follows every lineament, every particular feature with the most scrupulous exactness. Have you so far endeavored to model your lives on that of Jesus Christ? “Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ,” so that those who see you will say, “this is a faithful imitator of the divine Master.” It is easy to recognize the original and the faithful copy.

Jesus, my dear young people, is the lily of the valley, the immaculate Lamb. Here is a very important virtue. Do you possess that scrupulous purity of thought and action which renders man like the angels? Jesus was obedient, obedient even unto death. What are the inclinations which most young people follow? They are disobedient and rebellious, independent and loving liberty; they are constantly looking for pleasure, so that life loses the necessary seriousness which belongs to it. What a difference between their life and that of Christ! Your whole effort, my dear children, should be to imitate Jesus in the purity of His life, in His obedience to the divine will, and His respect for authority. Lead a mortified life, joyfully accepting all the trials you may meet with here on this earth, and then shall come true as St. Paul says, “As you are partakers of the sufferings, so shall you be also of the consolation.”

A young man once came to St. Jerome and said he desired to abandon the world, to follow Jesus and to imitate Him. He was rich. St. Jerome voluntarily accepted him among his disciples, but he took him aside and gave him a little instruction. First he said, “Son, our life is a very hard one, as you see; we have no shoes, our clothes are coarse, we have to bear the cold and the heat in our houses; to endure abuses and hard words from people and violent temptations from the devil. I know not whether you can endure all this; you seem to have been brought up tenderly and in luxury.” The young man answered, “Am I more delicate than Jesus was when He walked about without shoes, suffered hunger and thirst, cold and heat, many persecutions and at last death? He has promised to help me: had I twenty bodies I would sacrifice them all for His love.”

O, my dear young people, if you will reflect seriously but for a moment, you will see that the imitation of Jesus Christ is a necessity. “I have given you an example that as I have done to you, so you do also.” Jesus desires you all to be in paradise. Do you not wish to go there? Yes, certainly; everybody expects to go to heaven; it is the greatest insult even to intimate to your friend that there is a danger of his going to hell.

Do, then, as the Apostles did. When they saw Our Lord ascend and taken away from them their hearts followed Him because they had no interest except in the glory of Jesus and the spread of His kingdom on earth. They desired trials, torments, persecutions, even violent deaths in order to be the sooner with Christ. They disliked the world and all its vanities. Let us not put our love on the things of this earth; let us look up to heaven, where our home is. Let us suffer, let us labor hard, let us employ all our time in this life, and so deserve a heavenly reward.

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