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Word Alive–Fr. Bel San Luis, SVD


Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Today, ASCENSION Sunday, we commemorate the end of the Lord’s public ministry in this world. “Mission accomplished,” Jesus would say. It does not mean that he is no longer with us or went into “retirement.” The evangelist Matthew writes Jesus’ declaration: “I am with you always until the end of the world.”

Jesus has gone up to heaven but, in another sense, he is still with us like in the celebration of the Holy Mass.

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Our Lord’s Ascension teaches us that our final destination is not in this world but in the next life. Moreover, the Lord said there will be surprises: “There are those who are first now will be last, and those last now who will be first” (Mk 10,31).

There’s a story about a devout lay minister who died and off he went to the next life. There, one either goes to the top floor: heaven, where the righteous are rewarded with eternal bliss.

Those who have venial or light sins go to the second floor, purgatory, and those with mortal or grievous sins are herded to the basement, hell, where their punishment is eternal.

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Now the lay minister found himself in purgatory. As he roamed about his new home, to his surprise he met his former parish priest. “Father, I didn’t expect you to be here,” the parishioner exclaimed. “Why aren’t you up there?” pointing to heaven.

“Ssshhh, quiet, Brod,” whispered the priest. “I just saw our congressman down below us!” (His unpunished crimes while in office were malversation of public funds and cheating in the election).

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Unfortunately, many people today are more preoccupied with amassing wealth, some ill-gotten, but have no concern for their spiritual obligation. As the Lord declared, “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, but suffers the loss of his own soul?” (Mt 16,26).

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Obviously, it is not wrong to enrich oneself with material wealth. What’s wrong is when one is hoarding his worldly possessions and never reaches out to his impoverished fellowmen. Jesus himself says, “Avoid greed in all its forms. A man may be wealthy, but his possessions do not guarantee him life” (Lk 12,13).

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In the time between Jesus’ Ascension and his return in the Last Judgment, we are told not to fix our concern solely on the afterlife but to establish “colonies of heaven” already here on earth.

That means we must work continuously to make God’s Kingdom on earth one that is characterized by justice, love, truth, and peace.

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When Jesus will return at the world’s reckoning, he will judge us on the basis of our good or evil deeds. The righteous will be rewarded but the wrongdoers will be condemned to eternal damnation (Mt 25, 35ff.)

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We all want to go to heaven, don’t we? If you don’t like to, your only option is hell with Lucifer as your master! So, let’s do what Jesus requires of us while we’re still in this world.

Echoing Jesus’ teaching on the Last Judgment, Pope Francis said that “our good works will be our ‘passport’ to Heaven.”

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And as the spiritual writer John Dunne reminds us: “I shall pass this way but once. Any good, therefore, that I can do or any kindness I can show, let me do it now. Let me not neglect nor defer it for I shall not pass this way again.”

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Today, the Catholic Church marks the 56th WORLD COMMUNICATION’S DAY. This event is in response to Jesus’ command before his Ascension to heaven: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the good news to all creation” (Mk 16,15).

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Note that the Lord said “proclaim the GOOD NEWS.” While there’s a lot of fake and negative news around, the media would do well to highlight inspiring news of success, compassion, peace, honesty, and development.

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