Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary - Homilies


Ascension Sunday
Fr. Jonathan L. Reardon
June 1st, 2014
Year A

It is said that we don’t get to know a person until we’ve eaten a peck of salt together. A peck is about 2 gallons. That’s a lot of salt and therefore a lot of eating together. So the saying means it takes a long time to get to know a person. Its true, isn’t it. If it takes a long time to get to know a person, what about getting to know God. In the Gospel today, Jesus speaks about the knowledge of God – that this knowledge is eternal life.

Chapter 17 of St. John’s Gospel is known as the Priestly Prayer of Jesus. Given this title because it is truly a very moving dialogue in which Jesus addresses the Father in offering His imminent passion. In it He reveals the essential elements of His mission and provides for us a model for our own prayer. Overall this prayer is an expression of love from the Heart of Christ. He shows the depths of His love for His disciples as He prays for them to the Father. In essence, His prayer is that the disciples know the Father as He knows them because in knowing the Father they will have eternal life. And, eternal life is the fundamental goal of our faith. 

Everything about our faith: God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, Mary, angels, saints, the teachings, the Church, the sacraments – are all meant to lead us to heaven. At the same time, this is precisely what God desires for us and what Christ has the authority to give – eternal life, heaven.

What is heaven? What is eternal life? Jesus tells us that eternal life is knowledge of the Father. That which we can immediately conclude from what Jesus says to us in the gospel is that heaven is NOT a place. Heaven is a state of being. What sort of state are we talking about? It is the eternal state of being in love. In heaven faith and hope fade away, there is no need to hope nor is there a need for faith because love is all that remains. Hence, heaven is the eternal fulfillment of the deepest longing of the human heart. It is being loved by God forever and loving Him in return, perfectly. Perfect knowledge, not just a list of information, of facts or data – that touch the mind only. This knowledge is whole and complete that touches the mind and the heart and draws out of our selves and into communion with the Blessed Trinity. In heaven, we become our true selves. We are given our true identity – that for which we were truly made, for God.

Yet, no matter how we describe it our images fall short of the exact reality that is eternal life. Yet, this is what God desires for us. How, then, do can we truly desire it for ourselves? How can we truly want it? We pray in the Lord’s Prayer: “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” These are powerful words and they are the means, the vehicle that launches us into a deep desire for eternal life. The words that we pray call us and challenge us to live a life that is already in heaven. This is precisely what we learn from the Resurrection and Ascension of our Lord. We not only have the hope of eternal life but we are meant to live it now. As such, heaven and earth unite giving a tangible hope for more, for better. As Jesus was resurrected and ascended in the flesh, He brought with Him to heaven our earthly bodies – something of earth goes up with Him to heaven. So, He is telling us that through our knowledge of Him – His teachings, commandments – through our participation in the sacramental life of the Church and in our unwavering fidelity to both, the fullness of knowledge of God can be reached and that knowledge, that goal is eternal life because in it we are moved from the heart to love. Faith begets hope; hope begets love; and love begets charitable deeds. Thus there is a great sense of responsibility on our part to live the kingdom because in so doing we get a foretaste, a glimpse of that heavenly reality. It gives us a taste of things to come.

There can be no greater glimpse of heaven then what we experience in the liturgical worship of the Mass. In a very real way, heaven and earth unite. Our voices blend with angels and saints giving God His due praise. We are then to carry within us this heavenly experience into our daily lives. We are to empty ourselves only to be filled by God. For Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI reminds us in his homily at the Easter Vigil in 2006:
“Life comes to us from being loved by him who is Life; it comes to us from living-with and loving-with him. I, but no longer I: this is the way of the Cross, the way that “crosses over” a life simply closed in on the I, thereby opening up the road towards true and lasting joy.”

As we prepare for Pentecost, for the outpouring of the Spirit on the Church and in our hearts in a renewed and more vibrant way, let us ask the Spirit to help us to live the kingdom and thus live for heaven. Come, Holy Spirit…

Fr. Jon Reardon

Rev. Jonathan L. Reardon is a priest for the diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts.
He serves at Sacred Heart Parish in Pittsfield, MA.

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