May 29, 2022
The Ascension of Our Lord reminds us that the end of our life on this earth is only the beginning. If we are faithful to Him, our brief life on earth can continue to bear fruit into eternity, way beyond what we imagine.
- The revelation of the Ascension of Jesus is not being confined, but free, not dark but radiant, not ghostly but glorious, not sad but joyous.
- Jesus is not absent, He is more present and active than ever before. The Ascension teaches us that the end is just the beginning.
- Most of Jesus’ work was after leaving this earth. He began working with no limit, no geographical limit and throughout history.
- Saints are showing us that we can’t measure the fruitfulness of a life by the way things appear on earth or how things appear at the end of our life.
- It is only in eternity that our fruitfulness continues to grow and expand. The end is just the beginning.
- Paul states that the suffering which seems often to limit our fruitfulness on this earth or ability to do good, is often preparing us for much greater eternal fruitfulness.
The fruitfulness of our life is not limited to what we can do here on this earth. Our opportunity for doing good does not end with this life, it increases once we leave, if we’re faithful to Jesus.
The lives of Jesus, the Blessed Mother and the writings of saints, such as St. Faustina and St. Therese, show us that we can’t measure the fruitfulness of a life, just by the way things appear here on earth, even the way things appear at the end of our life and that it will only be in heaven, that we will be able to fully bear fruit and realize all the fruit that began just as seeds here on this earth.
“May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call. What are the riches of glory in His inheritance among the holy ones. And what is the surpassing greatness of His power for us to believe, in accord with the exercise of His great might, which He worked in Christ.” It’s easy for us to forget how shocking is the Ascension, compared to the non-Christian ideas, the ideas that most people have about death, and what comes after death. And we see this in our society, for instance, think of the images around Halloween, or the images in a horror movie, in a spooky movie. A lot of those are the same images of death or what comes after death as being something very uncertain, but something which is down there, something which is sad, and dark, and shadowy, in a diminished life. That was the idea that many of the ancients had, there was maybe a life that was like a very shadowy diminished life. And so, the revelation of this Ascension of Jesus is not something uncertain. But it’s very clear and manifest, in fact there are hundreds of witnesses. It’s happening in broad daylight where many people can witness this. And it’s not going down, but it’s ascending, going up. And it’s not being confined in some place, but it’s being freed, freed, flying in the air. It’s not dark, it’s radiant. It’s not shadowy, and diminished, like ghostly, but it’s glorious, that is even more alive, and more powerful than ever before. And it’s not sad, it’s joyous. That’s what the apostles are feeling, that joy. And Jesus is not absent, but He is more present and active than ever before. He says, “I am with you always, until the end of the world.” So, the Ascension teaches us that the end is just the beginning, the end is just the beginning. The end of this life is just the beginning of the fullness of life. And so, I want to come back to this point, which I’ve often spoken of, but I think this is a good occasion to come to it. That if we are faithful to God, it’s not just that our joy can grow after this life, but our opportunity for doing good does not end with this life, it increases once we leave, if we’re faithful to Jesus. So, the fruitfulness of our life is not limited to what we can do here on this earth. So, let’s look at the example of Jesus Himself. For people looking on simply humanly at His life, at when He died and what this seemed like, it was a short life. He lived just 33 years, and most of those 33 years seemed very unexceptional, just a carpenter in a little town, of an unimportant town and just an average family. And then after some beautiful inspiring moments of His public ministry, but they were very brief, with opposition from the people in power, and then comes very quickly His end, very tragic and disastrous end. And it seemed so that would have been like if you were trying to write His obituary at the time of his death, what it might have seemed like. But of course, we know that that’s not the end. We know that Jesus’ work on this earth was three years, confined to just those three years of history and just that small area of Palestine. But after leaving this life, of course, He began working with no limit, no geographical limit, and throughout history. So, most of Jesus’ work is after leaving this earth. He even said to his apostles, “it is to your advantage,” he said this on the last supper, “is to your advantage that I go away, because if I do not go away, the paraclete will not come to you. But if I go away, I will send Him.” So, it was important for you that I leave, because then I will be sending the Holy Spirit. In the passage that we heard today from St. Paul to Ephesians says “this, God worked in Christ, raising Him from the dead seating Him at His right hand in the heavens, far above every principality, authority, power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come, above all names. And He put all things beneath His feet, all things, and gave Him as head over all things to the Church, which is His body, the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.” So, He continues now as head of the Church, also acting through His Holy Spirit in the Church. So, this is not just for Jesus, but it’s also a light for our own lives. And we see it especially clearly, of course, in the lives of the saints. But remembering that the saints as all those in heaven are saints. And so, this is when we see these couple of examples that join us, not just them, but many, many others. The Catechism cites St. Dominic, who said at the end of his life, he said, “Do not weep, for I shall be more useful to you after my death.” More useful to you after my death. “And I shall help you then more effectively than during my life.” I shall help you more effectively after my death, he said. So, his opportunity to help didn’t end with this life, it became more effective after this life. And St. Faustina said, “I feel certain that my mission will not come to an end upon my death but will begin.” Her mission will begin at her death, she says. As she was dying, at the very end of her diary, she writes, “despite the diligent care of my superiors and the efforts of the doctors, my health is fading and running out. But I rejoice greatly at your call.” So, this is the situation again, of a person whose health is fading, and they sense that their life is running out. So, she doesn’t say that makes me very sad. She says, “But I rejoice greatly at your call my God, my love, because I know that my mission will begin at the moment of my death.” So, she’s still senses it very strongly as she approaches death. So, St. Faustina, who also died very young, she was also 33 years old when she died, and she was from a poor background. She entered young into a convent, and her life in a convent was mostly, it was just simple manual labor, and then also being the one who welcomed people at the door. So, it would seem again, at the outside the person who at the moment of her death as maybe not a very important life, which didn’t seem to have much impact. But it was after her passing, that the impact of her life became more manifest. And Jesus says to her, talking about her mission, “you will do this in this life and in the next.” So, the Lord Himself says that. And, one time she writes, “oh, my Jesus, although I will go to You and You will fill me with Yourself, and that will make my happiness complete, I will the nevertheless, not forget about humanity.” So being happy in heaven, she senses, won’t cause you to forget about humanity. “I desire to draw aside the veils of heaven, so that earth would have no doubts about your Divine Mercy. My repose is in proclaiming Your mercy.” So’ she’s continuing to do that here, at this Mission of Divine Mercy, even right now, as we read her words, but not just here, of course, many, many places, she’s continuing to work from heaven to manifest God’s mercy. And she also writes one other time, “in eternal happiness, I will not forget those on earth, I will obtain God’s mercy for all. And I will remember, especially those who are dear to my heart.” So, she’ll remember, she said she’ll be remembering all, but especially those that the Lord united her to in a particular way, like family members and friends, and so forth in the deepest absorption and God will not allow me to forget them. So, just in heaven, were you not, as she said, “we became absorbed, we are united to God, that being united to God makes us even more aware of the needs of his children.” And one more saint, St. Therese. St. Therese has been proclaimed a doctor of the Church and she died even younger, she was 24 years old. And when she entered very young in the convent, it would have seemed to many people, like kind of a wasted life, maybe a person with a lot of potential. But to a lot of people that would seem, like well, what’s the good in just being locked up in a convent. So, in a way, she can represent so many people who die young, and maybe she could seem like a person whose life didn’t bear much fruit. At the moment, if she died, some of her sisters say that well, what can we write about her? Because you know, she died. So yeah. Or people whose lives are more limited in one way or another by poverty, by their health, so forth. So, Saint Therese, writes, And this is, I think, also quote, in the Catechism, she says, “I want to spend my heaven in doing good on earth.” That’s a very practical statement. She says, “I want to spend my heaven doing good on earth.” She just didn’t just say interceding, she says, doing good on earth. “I feel that I’m about to enter into my rest, but I feel especially that my mission is about to begin.” So, she’s saying something similar to St. Faustina, “my mission, my life is ending on earth, but my mission is about to begin. My mission to make God loved as I love Him, to give my little way to souls. If God grants my desires, my heaven will be spent on earth.” If God grants my desires, my heaven will be spent on earth. Until she says, “until the end of time.” Yes, I want to spend my heaven doing good on earth, this isn’t impossible. And remember, this is a person who has been proclaimed a doctor of the Church, not just a crazy person, she’s a doctor of the Church. “Yes, I want to spend my heaven doing good on earth. This is not impossible, since from the bosom of the Beatific Vision of God, the angels watch over.” So, she’s saying, the angels are in heaven, they’re in the presence of God, and yet, they’re still active here on earth. “I can’t make heaven a feast of rejoicing, I can’t make Heaven a feast of rejoicing, I can’t rest as long as there are souls to be saved. But when the angel says, time is no more, so at the end of this world, then I will take my rest, I will be able to rejoice because the number of the elect will be complete. And because all will have entered into joy and repose, my heart beats with joy at the start.” So, the thing that the saints are showing us, is that we can’t measure the fruitfulness of a life, just by the way things appear here on earth, even the way things appear at the end of our life. So, the saints are examples, the saints are extraordinary examples, very bright examples. But they’re showing us something that’s true, not just for them, but for all those who arrive in heaven, being active on earth. So sometimes it was in special ways like St. Dominic to the community founded in St. Faustina and by the devotion to Divine Mercy and her diary and Saint Therese by her book. But it’s not just to those things, it’s by their, intercession and their activity for doing good. That’s as Saint Therese says, “doing good on earth.” And so, what that means for us is that if we’re faithful to Jesus, our opportunity to do good doesn’t end, at the end of our life here on earth. It increases at the end of our life on earth. So, we can’t measure the fruitfulness of our life, just by what we see here on earth. It’s only in eternity, that our fruitfulness has continued to grow and expand, that we will realize, and you know, so how Jesus says, “many of the last will be first and the first will be last.” And so, as many people’s lives maybe didn’t seem as the saints, also didn’t seem that fruitful, that important, can be among the most fruitful and the most important. The end is just the beginning. And today, as providentially, this Ascension is also the day before Memorial Day, and so many young men and women whose lives ended in service of our country, and that extreme sacrifice, as Jesus says, “there is no greater love than to give one’s life.” And with them, of course, it is also their families, their loved ones, who shared that extreme sacrifice. And how many of them in those moments, turn to God, perhaps in a way that they never had before. And we don’t know all the graces and the great trials and the great battles that they were going through, all the grace is perhaps in the very last moments of their life. And so, on this Feast of the Ascension, we think of all those who have some who are perhaps in Purgatory, so we intercede for them, but thinking of so many who are now already serving, in honor, in heaven, with our Lord, and with the other saints. “I want to spend my heaven in doing good on Earth.” “My mission is about to begin.” “My heaven will be spent on earth until the end of time.” We have a great example of our Blessed Mother. As we come to the end of this special month of May, she who we know, in so many ways, has continued so active and especially in our time, continuing to act in her life, continuing to bear fruit. And so, I want to end just by rereading this passage from St. Paul that we heard today, as a reminder for us on this Feast to the Ascension, that it will only be in heaven, that we will be able to fully bear fruit and realize all the fruit that began just in seeds here on this earth. “May the eyes of your heart be enlightened.” And so, you know one of the things that means also, of course is that the suffering, which seems often to limit our fruitfulness on this earth or ability to do good, is often preparing much greater eternal fruitfulness. “May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to His call. What are the riches of glory and His inheritance among the holy ones? And what is the surpassing greatness of His power for us who believe in accord with the exercise of His great might, which He worked in Christ, raising Him from the dead, and sitting Him at His right hand in the heavens, far above every principality, authority, power and dominion, in every name that is named not only in this age, but also in the one to come. And He put all things beneath His feet and gave Him as head over all things to the Church, which is His body, the fullness of the One who fills all things in every way.” Amen.