St. Luke describes the earthly life of Jesus in these words, “In the first book, Theophilus, I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught until the day He was taken up.”(Acts 1:1-11)
“Until the day He was taken up.” The entire earthly life of Jesus was a continuous preparation for the moment of being taken up into heavenly glory. His words, actions, and sufferings, His joys and sorrows, were all the means by which He prepared for that day in which He would return bodily to the Father’s glory.
He also wants His disciples to follow in His footsteps, using every event and every second of earthly time to prepare for their own entrance into heaven. The risen Christ continued to speak of His heavenly kingdom, “He presented Himself alive to them by many proofs after He had suffered, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.”
Thus, if we are going to follow Him into Heaven, we cannot afford to waste any time in this life. We will see every second as a gift from God to prepare us for heaven. We will see the difficult and painful events of our lives as moments to be purified and to mature in our faith for our journey home.
How do we know that we are actually making valuable use of our time here on earth in preparation for heavenly glory? How are we sure that we are not wasting our time here on earth?
Firstly, we do not delay our reconciliation with God and with others.
We are making good use of our time here on earth when we are growing deeper in our relationship with God. We are constantly seeking to remove from our lives the things and persons that keep us from loving God as we should. We allow His words alone and not sentiments or public opinion to shape our lives and influence our choices. We strive to grow in love for God through diligent reading of the scriptures, fervent prayer, and acts of charity.
We are engaged in the spiritual battle of our lives, refusing to be mastered or overcome by sin and selfishness in any way. We do not postpone our conversion or justify our mediocrity. We are not discouraged by our failures and setbacks but persevere in seeking the mercy of God and corresponding with His graces.
Good use of time also means seeking deeper relationships with others. We grant forgiveness and receive forgiveness from others, trying to journey with them to the heavenly kingdom. Jesus commanded us to bring along many souls as we journey to heaven, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations…Teach them to observe all that I command you.”(Mt 28:19-20) But how can we make others disciples of Jesus when we are estranged from them? We must first be reconciled with them before we can journey to heaven with them.
Secondly, we do not waste the daily sufferings of earthly life.
Divine providence uses our sufferings in this life to prepare us for life in heaven. Jesus suffered to enter into heaven and He asserted that this was the Father’s will, “Was it not necessary for the Messiah to suffer such things and so enter into His glory?”(Lk 24:26) We too must be ready to face and embrace the sufferings and trials of our lives so as to enter into heaven with Him, “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.”(Acts 14:22)
We do not get discouraged when suffering and hardship come. We do not try to avoid them at all costs but embrace them with the grace of God. We can bring these sufferings to the Eucharist and offer them to the One who loved us and suffered for us on the cross so that we can be with Him forever. It is only by uniting our sufferings to the paschal mystery of Christ made present in the Eucharist that our sufferings make sense and have supernatural value.
Thirdly, we pay attention to the graces that God is giving to us in the present moment.
Making good use of time also entails paying attention to the graces that God is giving to us in the present moment. Instead of worrying about the future or regretting the past, we pay attention to the graces that God is giving to us now to be His faithful witnesses, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Heaven is for faithful witnesses of Jesus alone. We must not allow the challenges of the present moment to make us oblivious of the graces that God is giving to us even now to do His will and to be His faithful witnesses before others. Making good use of our time means that we cease seeking our own will and interest or living by our own strength and wisdom. We live for heaven when we abandon our will, search for His will, and depend on His grace alone.
Lastly, we do not lose our hope for anything.
Jesus has given us hope so that we strive for heaven. We cannot imagine the riches that await us or the power of God to fulfill our desires for heaven, “May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to His call, what are the riches of glory in His inheritance among the holy ones, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power for us who believe.”(Eph 1:18-19)
Our hope remains alive also because of the abiding presence of Jesus Christ all the time, “Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”(Mt 28:20) He is always present and active in our lives, in good and bad times, preparing us for perfect communion with Him in heaven. Thus, we must cooperate with Him in achieving our eternal destiny.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the Ascension of Jesus shows us what happens when we live each second of our lives conscious of our eternal home in heaven. This same Jesus is present and active within us in each Eucharist, laboring for our eternal salvation at all times and in all conditions, as He Himself attested, “My Father is at work up till now and I also am at work.”(Jn 5:17)
Let us correspond with His graces by also laboring now and at every single moment of our lives. This is how we allow Him to prepare us for life in with Him in heaven.
Glory to Jesus! Honor to Mary!