Once upon a time, Fr. John finds three little boys sitting on a curb playing hooky from school. “Don’t you want to go to heaven?” he admonishes them. “I sure do,” two of the boys answer, but the third replies, “No sir.” “What’s the matter? You mean you don’t want to go to heaven when you die?” “Oh, when I die!” exclaims the youngster. “Of course I do, when I die. I thought you were getting up a crowd to go now.”
If we are faithful to the Gospel, where do we go when we die?
We often say, “ I want to go to heaven.” The Acts of the Apostles describes Jesus being lifted up and the apostles gawking up into the heavens. Many think heaven is in the skies.
If we believe this, then our favorite song is “From a Distance,” made popular by Bette Midler. “God is watching us. God is watching us. God is watching is us from a distance.” Is this what we believe? Seriously? No, God is NOT watching us from a distance. God is not watching us…God is intimately involved with us and in the person of Jesus, God has done two things on Ascension Day.
First, human nature enters heaven. The human personality of the second person of the Blessed Trinity walks into the glory of what we will know as eternal life.
Second, Jesus goes “more deeply into our world,” according to Bishop Robert Barron. He goes “to heaven so as to direct operations more fully here on earth.”
In his letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul prays that the eyes of our hearts be enlightened. If we allow ourselves to see with the eyes of faith, what might we behold? Heaven…heaven…it is all around us. But like the eleven, we doubt that idea that heaven is all around us, and, closer than we think. The word doubt for St. Matthew means “to stand in two ways, uncertain as which to take.” Like the Scarecrow and Dorothy in the Wizard of OZ, there is a “fork” in the yellow brick road. They are uncertain as which to take. But they stick together and choose wisely. Maybe that is how we can find heaven here on earth, stick together and know that Jesus is with us always.
The Lord is always present here, especially at the celebration of the Eucharist. We are his body and he gives us the great commission: baptize and teach. When we participate in these sacraments together we experience heaven.
The Rev. Fr. Dr. T. Becket A. Franks, O.S.B.