Emmitsburg Council of Churches

The Ascension of Our Lord
…and A Pilgrim Visit

Father John J. Lombardi

Marxists and communists try to create a Utopia here on Earth with their attitude: "If you build it, they will come…and stay." While materialists say, mimicking Mayor Dailey's famous Chicago voting phrase-moniker-- "Get attached, early and often"-worship Mammon; savage capitalists say "greed is good"; and atheists think "this is the 'only place' there is."

Meanwhile in the Ascension, the Lord Jesus shows us our true home, our final home, our eternal home-Heaven….not Utopia (which actually means "no place")-but Celestial Paradise; not Mammon but worship and love of the Mystical Trinity; not greed as sole purpose in life but spiritual possession of Eternal Goods; not visible earth as "the only thing" - but invisible Heaven as our deepest longing's fulfillment.

There are so many ways "here below" to get caught and trapped, but the Lord Jesus gave us a Divine Map-to Heaven. Just why did Jesus leave Earth and go to the Heavens? Because 1) He completed His work on Earth; 2) He now leaves His ministry in care of His Church; and 3) to show us our Final Home is where He is going-in Heaven

Heaven is the "proper place" we call God's dwelling. Heaven is a creation-the Lord God made it for us to abide in-endless bliss, and this is spiritual happiness-being with God forever without suffering or separation. God does not need Heaven because He requires no "space" or "time" to dwell in-He is/was perfect in His Divine Trinitarian Being without a "place" before there ever was creation or anything else (the angels), but He created Heaven for bodies, spirits and souls to dwell in-for us if we are worthy of this Sacred Destination.

We humans sometimes inordinately seek to be comfortable and make a dwelling here on Earth-that is almost natural. For true disciples of the Lord it is otherwise. One such disciple came to the Grotto recently to show us that we on earth are "wayfarers" and that our main mission on earth is to focus on the Lord Jesus and announce our goal: Heaven. This wayfarer was named "Pilgrim George." He showed me in example-real, live, in person, what it means to follow the Lord unreservedly (see below).

Anyway, what does Heaven mean, where Jesus ascended to? In the Trinity, God is Three in One: Heaven is now called "God's Dwelling." We should seek Heaven for no other reason than to be with God, the Blessed Trinity. In the Mystical Communion, where the Blessed Virgin Mary and Mother Seton and all the saints are now, we have two families-our earthly, blood families, and a "spiritual family" called the saints, and, with them, this Heavenly dwelling and "Home" is where we will be truly happy-forever! The Ascension shows us that we have access to this blessed abode.

We must be, in some ways, detached from both earth and the Lord's incarnational Body in order to be true pilgrims of Heaven. The disciples were undoubtedly sad and perhaps even confused when the Lord left Earth. They musta' liked hanging out with God, seeing His miracles, His compassion in action, watching Divine Life unfold before them. They grew attached to all this. But they eventually realized their deeper mission: to preach the Good News after Jesus left them. That's our job too, each of us in our own way.

Another reason why Jesus ascended to Heaven is given by St Paul in the second reading form this Solemnity's Mass: "The One Who descended is also the One Who ascended far above all the Heavens, that He might fill all things" (Eph 4). "To fill all things" - this is Divine Permeation-Divinization. Now, while we are certainly not pantheists (God is everything) but, perhaps, radical monotheists, God bestows His Presence to all us souls when we are in a state of Grace-He went "above" to fill us "below" -a kind of "democratization of divinity" if you will. Kinda like when a mother or father "stands above" all the children to love them all equally and at-one-ment. St Paul is implying because Jesus is transcendent (above all things) He is also in all things-permeating, embracing, inebriating. This is a kind of "sacred tension," a "mystical paradox" whereby He does "two seeming dis-similar things at once"-He is God so He can be both above and below at the same time! As long as Jesus-the-Incarnation was in Palestine walking around, He was identified only with that time and place. Now, with the Ascension He is identified with, and permeates, all times and places, with all who seek Him. Never take this grace for granted! So let us think of His Celestial-Resurrected-Ethereal Body: Light-filled, Divine, Radiating. This sacred thought and image (and reality) should instantly stimulate, inculcate, animate love, desire, beauty within us. And let us to think of our bodies, too-"temples of the Lord." Lately, perhaps, you have read of America's struggles with weight-gain. So now in response to this promised resurrected Body and His Ascension, make your own body lighter, eternal. Remove clots, trains, "run the good race"; eat healthy foods, shake and wake up the endorphins (organic brain stimulants) and adrenalin in your body to allow Him within. Asceticism means "to train"-the wily Desert Fathers (in the Egyptian desert), medieval penitents and heroic disciples all knew a non-secret we "modernists" have forgotten-that body and soul go together as a "team" and includes good food and exercise and holy thoughts and balanced diet and hard things (mortifications). We can celebrate the Ascension by these sacred ways of training and discipleship and thereby prepare our bodies and souls for Eternal Life. Wholeness and holiness go together!

So: how can you long for Heaven? How can you be detached from this world (rightly) and be free for Heaven? How can you long for a faith-filled "family re-union" in Heaven? How can you nurture yourself spiritually that you may meet the Lord fully there-and your loved ones? How can meditating upon Heaven help you thru your sufferings on Earth? How can you help others think about Heaven instead of merely thinking about earthly delights? How can you be more focused on the mission of life like the apostles-proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Love-that's what it's all about, and all in Heaven are perfectly doing God's Will. Get in tune and stay in tune with the Blessed Trinity as Heavenly beings are with Him, and prepare for your final home, your true and eternal home!

A Pilgrim…Recently this priest met a guy named "Pilgrim George." He wears a blue denim habit (like a Franciscan-complete with hood and rope belt) and travels throughout the world. That's what he is-a walking-pilgrim disciple--and what he does-travels on foot, meets and greets people and does God's Will. He's probably about age 50 or so and recently came to Mary's Grotto and where we visited together. He is a very genial fellow-intriguing and inspiring at the same time.

When I curiously asked him about all the types of people he meets from all over the world, He said, in essence: There are two kinds of people. happy and unhappy people (no surprise here; where's the profoundness? I thought). He went on: There are people who know God's love for them-they are happy; and ones who do not know God's love, they are unhappy." …I was convicted on the spot: Do I really know God's love for me? Do I appreciate His love, or rationalize it and try to make my ego, my "way" first and foremost? Sure, I know in the head God's love-that's my business as a priest-"God is Love" (I Jn 4:6). And I know that we must work at and respond to this Divine love-thru penance and prayer and works of mercy. But do I really "drink in" God's love and know and feel it in my bones and blood? Do I receive it enough? Does any of my unhappiness stem from "trying to work at God's love," earning it, making it "my deal"? Love is the scientific- poetic-mystical equation of the universe and of God's and Jesus' followers. I appreciated Pilgrim George's insight-because it seemed not academic and sterile ("same old-same old"-a repeated formula) but real, from his experience of encountering and learning about Jesus and so many varied souls.

He also said (words to the effect): This is a beautiful place, this Grotto. People perhaps like it because it is so lovely, and here all creation does God's Will naturally, perfectly--the birds, the trees, the plants and animals perform a perfect spiritual symphony of God's Will. And this Grotto is likeable perhaps because people find refreshment from what they are looking for. Yes, that's true. People so often tell me this is a place and haven of peace and beauty, and where God's creation is harmonic and symphonic-a tapestry of His Divine Will in union. Let us be grateful that the universe manifests here too God's Equation of Love, delightfully!

Some school children were present to meet Pilgrim George and they asked him some point-blank-frank questions: What do you eat? Whatever is given to him. How do you travel? He walks. Where do you stay? In his tent and sometimes with welcoming hosts in their homes. What about money? He doesn't have any. Pilgrim George said that you don't always need money and that those who have money are not always happy. Money doesn't guarantee happiness All this showed the children-and this chaplain-the great and simple faith of this Pilgrim Way of Life-passing thru this earth toward Heaven-like Jesus-relying constantly on God's Holy Loving Providence.

As we continue our Easter Season and Solemnity of the Ascension, let us like Pilgrim George detach from this world wisely and attach to the Beauty, Light and Love of Heaven-our true, final and Eternal Home!

Some aspirations (short, inward prayers repeated to focus one's attention)

Equanimity. Sacred Trinity. (broken down into syllables prayerfully said=Eq-ua-nim-ity, Sa-cred Trin-i-ty…Meaning: Our peace is in God. Equanimity means the right ordering of parts from fragmentation. Peace and holiness and wholeness are in God-the-Trinity. Prayerfully repeat this prayer and meld it to your heart and breath and all sentiment-emotions to sanctify yourself into God's Peace and Love…

God's Essence/ Healing Presence…Meaning: The Essence of God, His Divine Being, is healing and balm for us. We need His Love to be healed of any past hurts, struggles and current anxieties to begin anew…Pray these aspirations prayerfully-devoutly, intentionally-and replace the "old tape" of recurrent bad thoughts with holy new thoughts. Imprint them within to embrace Him, the Lord!

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi