What do you hope for? I dare say most of us answer that question with very practical things. Most of us would probably would say that we hope for good weather tomorrow, or we hope our boss might give us a raise, or maybe even something more pious like hoping your children will start going back to Church.
Those hopes are certainly not bad, but they are pretty immediate hopes. Today’s feast of the Ascension should draw us out of the immediate and with the apostles it should lead us to gaze up into the heavens and hope for greater things. When is the last time you stopped for a moment and starred up into the starry night? I don’t know about you, but when I stare into the heavens, I am forced to step back and allow things to come into perspective. For example, when I stare up into the heavens, I can’t help but asks what lies on the other side. I can’t help but realize how small I really am and how precious my life is. I can’t help but ask how did all of this come into being. At least for me, when I stare into the heavens I am filled with wonder and awe and in some strange way the bigger picture becomes clear in my life.
Look, I get it, we are so busy doing things, achieving things, and making progress that it is so easy for us to forget that our life has a purpose far greater than just completing the next task at hand. Just like the apostles in today’s first reading who were stunned as they watched Jesus ascend into the heavens only to find themselves starring into the sky long after He had vanished and finding perspective, we too are called to stop and for just a moment leave the immediate things behind and allow the big picture to come into focus. This is after all the beauty of taking the time to come here to Church each Sunday. Every Sunday, when we walk through the doors of this church, we leave behind the worries of this world and for one short hour, we gaze up to heaven, so that hopefully, when we walk back out of the doors into the world, we have a new found perspective which guides our daily actions.
The Ascension of Jesus into heaven was a reminder to the apostles and is a reminder to us that we are only passing through this earth. Just as Jesus’ earthly life was temporary, and He ascended to sit at the right hand of the Father, so our lives here on earth will also come to an end and we will meet God in the next life. Today’s feast then should draw our eyes heavenward and remind us in the midst of all of our busyness not to forget what life is all about and lead us to hope for heaven.
While it makes sense that we have all kinds of immediate hopes, unless we begin to hope for heaven, heaven becomes a vague and fuzzy ideal far off in the horizon, rather than the finish line that each of us should be striving for. While hoping for heaven is challenging because for most of us, heaven is still, God willing, a longways down the road, the Ascension puts things into perspective and reminds us in all of our business not to forget what life is all about.
While we hope for the perfect house, some more money, or a little more earthly happiness, our hope for heaven reminds us that the best still awaits us in the next life. Whatever possessions or riches we have no are nothing compared to the riches of heaven. In fact, in the end does it really matter how much wealth or fame we accumulate? We can’t take it with us.
If we find ourselves always hoping for that next short-term thing, it becomes very easy to give up hope, but when we stare into the heavens and focus on the bigger picture our hope never fades. Perhaps you are one of those people look at the world around us and have given up hope. Well look up into the heavens and place your hope in God rather than in those around us or even worse in some sort of fortune. When we hope, we trust in God, when we despair or presume we choose to trust ourselves instead.
Friends, Jesus has ascended to the right hand of the Father where He waits for us to join Him, when He calls us from this world to Himself. So then as we watch Him ascend, why not allow our heads to look up into the heavens and find the perspective we need before we look back down to this world and continue moving down the path of this life that leads to life forever with Him forever.
 Charles Chaput. Strangers in a Strange Land. New York: Henry Holt and Company. (2017) Pg 153.