The Church of Saint Agnes

1680 Dixie Highway, Fort Wright, KY 41011

The Church of Saint Agnes
1680 Dixie Highway, Fort Wright, KY 41011

Saint Agnes School | Contact Us

The Ascension of the Lord

Date: 
Sun, 05/17/2015
Author: 
Rev. Msgr. Donald Enzweiler

Heaven.
I look around this afternoon/morning and realize: I’m not in heaven.
You’re not in heaven.
How do we know?
…..we still feel pain.
…..we still have worries and concerns.
…..we still experience the effects of sin and imperfection.
In heaven, there is supposed to be no pain….only happiness.
In heaven, there is supposed to be no worries…..only contentment.
In heaven, there is supposed to be no sin….only the perfect love of God.
At least this is what we’re told
….and this is hope we embrace.
 
Today, our attention is drawn to heaven.
Jesus ascends into the firmament, into the sky,
but it’s more than this….
Jesus returns to the place from which he came: heaven.
He left heaven, in obedience to the Father,
left the place of perfection
…. came to this place of sin.
He wasn’t going on vacation.
He wasn’t running away from responsibilities.
He was on a mission:
to save what was lost;
to free all of creation from death and darkness;
to defeat the forces of evil;
to save and redeem the children of this world.
 
With this mission accomplished
his time on earth has come to pass.
And now he returns to his rightful place
alongside the Father
where he reigns forever.
Jesus is now home….in heaven—where ever that is:
up there, over there, out there, somewhere.
 
I can only imagine….
as the disciples watch him take his leave…
the pleading in their hearts:
“don’t go, don’t leave us again, take us with you.”
They lost Jesus once in death….
they despaired as they saw their future hanging on the cross.
But then they found him again
or should I say…..he found them again.
And miracle of miracles, he was alive.
Now he was doing it again:  leaving them.
 
Like the last time…..this departure takes them by surprise.
They had little time to say their goodbyes.
They had little time to exchange parting gifts.
They had little time to even think about what was happening.
I can only imagine….
the disciples were like deer in headlights:
caught off guard and unable to do anything but let things happen.
After he was gone,
and they continued on without him
and things didn’t go back to the way they were….
then their reflections and thoughts
would start chewing on the event.
This wasn’t applesauce or vegetable broth.
This was meat.
It had to be chewed for a long time before it could be swallowed
and then it would take a long time to digest.
 
“What are we going to do without you?
How will we survive?  How will we manage?
Why can’t we go with you?
Who will take your place?
 
No answers….just questions.
One day they might be answered…..
when Jesus returns as he promised….
when His kingdom finally reigns supreme….
when the history of the world gives way
and crosses the threshold of time into eternity.
  
For the time being
we can only do what people have done
since the time of Cain and Abel:  we can imagine…..heaven.
But we now have what they didn’t have:
the stories of someone who’s been there:  Jesus Christ.
 
There’s an old Japanese saying:
“If you want to know what lies ahead on the road you are traveling….
ask someone coming from the opposite direction.”
 
Jesus came from heaven
and today we celebrate his return to heaven.
And as we celebrate his presence among us, we ask him:  “what’s heaven like?”
And we recall, we remember, we remind ourselves
the things Jesus said about heaven ….revealed to us about heaven:
“I am going to prepare a place for you….
so that where I am, you also may be.”
Jesus makes known his heart’s desire:
“I want you to be with me in heaven.”
Now before we get too far ahead of ourselves,
there is an unspoken element regarding this divine desire:
“I want you to be with me in heaven….at the proper time.”
If Jesus’ wanted us to be in heaven from the beginning of our existence
he would have seen to it that we were created as angels.
There is yet another unspoken element of Jesus’ desire:
“I want you to be with me in heaven…..
but I first want you to dwell on earth.”
But why?  Knowing as he does
that this is the realm of sin
that earthly existence is flawed and imperfect
that earthly existence entails pain and suffering….
why?  Why would he want this?
 
No answers….just questions.
But we do know, now that Jesus is in heaven
he isn’t baking cakes or knitting a sweater.
He isn’t watching re-runs on TV or trying to learn how to play the harp.
He’s praying for us. Watching over us.
He is still very interested and concerned about what happens on this earth.
From heaven he continues to shepherd us,
calling out to us by name, drawing us close to him;
guiding us, sheltering us, tending to our wounds.
He wants to make sure we stay together, not wander away on our own.
And he’s waiting for us to join him forever.
He is preparing a place for us in heaven
and inspires us to choose him as the way to get there.
Until that day, when we are united with him forever, what do we do?
We live as “cosmic amphibians”.
Say what?
We live as “cosmic amphibians”.
What is an amphibian….?
a living organism classified somewhere between a fish and a reptile.
Amphibians, in their larval stage, in their childhood and adolescence
have gills…..and live in water.
As adults, amphibians breath air.
Frogs and toads are amphibians;
In the military, an amphibious vehicle
is one that can operate on water or on land.
And the “cosmos”  the cosmos is the universe….all of creation.
All of space with its stars and planets and galaxies and black holes
 
Until that day when our questions about life in heaven are answered….
we live as “cosmic amphibians”.
We live with one foot on earth and one foot in heaven.
We go about our daily lives on earth….this is the water.
But we don’t keep our gills forever.
In and through spiritual development our gills become lungs.
And in order to live, in order to survive,
we must take the time to stick our head up out of the earthly waters
and take a deep breath of God’s heavenly grace.
We do this by taking into ourselves…
into our minds and our hearts
anything and everything to do with
He who came down from heaven:  Jesus Christ.
We do this by gathering for Eucharist.
 
Go ahead.  Especially if you haven’t done it in a while.  Take a deep breath.
Not too quickly…..I don’t want you to pass out.
Take a long, measured, deep breath.
Imagine the air you are pulling in through your nose, the air filling your lungs
is the very grace of God….the life-giving Spirit of God,
the heavenly presence of God.
Imagine this sacred presence filling your entire body….
from the tippy-top of your head,
to the ends of your fingers, to the tips of your toes.
Imagine the presence of God as the sweet smell of Spring flowers
and you are drawing this wonderful smell deep into yourself….and it’s becoming part of you.
Breath it in…..
and imagine…
being in heaven.
Maybe not now….not immediately….but some day.  Dwelling with God forever.