Thursday, June 01, 2006

Look Up to Heaven

Pope Benedict XVI, in his homily on Sunday in Krakow, gives a beautiful reflection on the Ascension of Our Lord. "Why do you stand looking up to heaven?" is a question directed to all of us. "The answer to this question involves the fundamental truth about the life and destiny of every man and woman." Pope Benedict then points to two directions for understanding man's existence. First, it involves where we are. We are on the earth and we are standing. But why?
Our answer is that we are here on earth because our Maker has put us here as the crowning work of his creation. Almighty God, in his ineffable plan of love, created the universe, bringing it forth from nothing. Then, at the completion of this work, he bestowed life on men and women, creating them in his own image and likeness (cf. Gen 1:26-27). He gave them the dignity of being children of God and the gift of immortality. We know that man went astray, misused the gift of freedom and said “No” to God, thus condemning himself to a life marked by evil, sin, suffering and death. But we also know that God was not resigned to this situation, but entered directly into humanity’s history, which then became a history of salvation. “We stand” on the earth, we are rooted in the earth and we grow from it. Here we do good in the many areas of everyday life, in the material and spiritual realms, in our relationships with other people, in our efforts to build up the human community and in culture. Here too we experience the weariness of those who make their way towards a goal by long and winding paths, amid hesitations, tensions, uncertainties, in the conviction that the journey will one day come to an end.
God did not abandon us in our sinfulness but came into our history most intimately through the Incarnate Word, Jesus the Son of God. Human history became transformed into salvation history. Thus the end of man does not find fulfillment in or on the earth but rather beyond this earth.
“Why do you stand looking up to heaven?” We have read that, just as the Apostles were asking the Risen Lord about the restoration of Israel’s earthly kingdom, “He was lifted up and a cloud took him out of their sight.” And “they looked up to heaven as he went” (cf. Acts 1:9-10). They looked up to heaven because they looked to Jesus Christ, the Crucified and Risen One, raised up on high. We do not know whether at that precise moment they realized that a magnificent, infinite horizon was opening up before their eyes: the ultimate goal of our earthly pilgrimage. Perhaps they only realized this at Pentecost, in the light of the Holy Spirit. But for us, at a distance of two thousand years, the meaning of that event is quite clear. Here on earth, we are called to look up to heaven, to turn our minds and hearts to the inexpressible mystery of God. We are called to look towards this divine reality, to which we have been directed from our creation. For there we find life’s ultimate meaning.
As we approach the Solemnity of Pentecost, may we keep our eyes lifted toward heaven through all the difficulties and challenges we face, and may we find the peace and joy in our ultimate destiny which lies in God himself.

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