Return of the Prodigal Son by Pompeo Batoni - 1773

Evolution for the Catholic Student

Order 'Evolution for the Catholic Student' - Click on the image above

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Living the Mystery of the Ascension

Living the Mystery of the Ascension

Earlier this week I ended my reflection on the Ascension with the statement, “The Ascension reminds us that this Earth is no more the lasting home of the children of God than it is for the Only Begotten Son of God,” and the question, “Is that how we live, though, even us Christians?” 
I know many heroic souls that inspire me to do just that, but certainly our culture does not encourage it, and my own weaknesses are the source of abundant reflection on the issue.
To be sure, this life is of supreme importance, because what we do here determines our eternity.  And there are temporal demands that we can not deny or ignore.  Scripture reminds us that we must live “in the world.”  But it also admonishes us not to be “of the world.”
I was walking through the mall the other day to meet my family for lunch, as we were celebrating my son’s fourth birthday.  It struck me the amount of goods that were being offered, and how they were being advertised.  From the picture of the 19 year-old surfer with no shirt whose glance demanded that there was nothing as serious in life as the cologne he was selling, to the billboard of the pre-teen whose look promised that her halter top could turn any child unto an oversexed near-adolescent with boys trailing her like puppy dogs, the mall encourages us to think of anything but Heaven.
I understand commerce and its importance to the economy, and I certainly don’t disparage cologne or clothing.  But really, the value our culture places on things that are so temporary, is ridiculous.  It has been said that the definition of sanity is living in reality.  Reality is that we are all going to die.  Heaven and hell are eternal and they are the only places we can be forever. 
This world is a gift.  This life is a gift.  We should enjoy the beauty of it.  But it is also a battlefield, and our souls are the spoils of war.  One of the devil’s main strategies is to convince us that we are not in a battle, that there is no war raging around us, and that there are no casualties.
Why, then, did Jesus warn so often of hell?  Was He just a “doom and gloom” preacher?  Of course not.  He died, took on the punishment of the entire world, so that not one soul would have to be lost.  He desperately wants us all to be with Him, in glory, forever.  We have to know we are in a battle.
C.S. Lewis once said, “Indeed, if we consider the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak.  We are half-hearted creatures, fooling around with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he can not imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at sea.”
The Ascension reminds us that God has given us a destiny far beyond anything we can imagine here on Earth.  We should enjoy the good things God gave us in this life, and see in them foretastes of Heaven.  But we must place priority on the things we can take with us, namely our love: love of God and love of neighbor.  Our television will not be in Heaven, no matter how big it is, but our loved ones will.  We should cultivate our relationships because they last beyond the grave.  Temporal pleasures do not.  First among these relationships is our relationship with God.  He has freely offered us everlasting life.  We simply must decide whether we will accept or reject that gift.  Will we love Him, above all else, and enter joyfully into His Kingdom?  Our culture tells us that’s a waste of time.  By our previous definition, then, our culture is insane.