Last night I flew East to celebrate Ascension Thursday with my mother, but this time I will visit her grave rather than ascend South Mountain with her. Later today, however, I’ll go with my brother up South Mountain and look up into the sky, toward Jesus, with the Father and the Holy Spirit. I hope and pray that my mother is in the fullness of heaven now, and I hope and pray we will all ascend to God after we die. After visiting Mom’s grave, we will visit Dad, who recently turned 96, and wish him a happy Ascension Thursday.
Our Lord has returned to heaven, not to abandon us but to prepare a place for us in the skies. The brave shepherd goes ahead of us, opening a way for all who wish to follow him into heaven. At the end of our lives, Christ will say to us “Come. Come follow me.” We will follow him at that moment only if we have made an honest attempt to follow him throughout our lives on earth.
Just a week ago the Archbishop of San Francisco made the difficult decision, after nine years of deliberation, to notify his parishioner, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, that she should not receive Holy Communion until she repudiates the legalized killing of unborn human beings. He did this, following canon law 915 (“those who persist in manifest grave sin should not be admitted to Holy Communion”) in hopes that she will look up, towards the life of the world to come. Mrs. Pelosi insists that she is a devout Catholic, placing herself under the pastoral care of the Archbishop of San Francisco. By invoking canon 915, Archbishop Cordileone has made an attempt to save her soul before it is too late. Another reason for invoking canon 915 is to protect the integrity of the Holy Eucharist. We are all sinners, of course, but for one who manifestly [publicly and politically] promotes this grave injustice, receiving the Body of the Lord is a terrible scandal. It confuses those who are trying to believe that what appears to be just a piece of bread is really the Body of Christ; it diminishes faith in the Eucharist and diminishes faith in God’s presence in all human beings, especially very tiny ones that you can’t see without a sonogram machine.
We will all die, and it takes a good deal of courage to face death with serene joy. Is there really anything beyond the grave? Is there really anyone above the skies? No one believes in God alone, because God is essentially a community of Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We know God through other people, through his goodness and beauty shining through them. We have to help each other believe in God, and that is why my mother would take us out of school every Ascension Thursday for a family picnic. Take some time today to be with and pray for those you love, helping them to look toward heaven.