Ascension shows that no one is left behind en route to heaven, pope says

Visitors gather in St. Peter’s Square to pray the “Regina Coeli” with Pope Francis at the Vatican May 12, 2024. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

By Justin McLellan, Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Jesus’ ascension shows that, despite the difficulties in peoples’ lives, they are all made for heaven, Pope Francis said.

Reflecting May 12 on the Gospel reading from St. Mark, which recounts how Jesus “was taken up into heaven,” the pope said that Jesus’ ascension into heaven does not represent a detachment from humanity but rather precedes its ultimate destination: heaven.

Pope Francis compared Jesus’ resurrection to the point when, during a difficult climb, one turns a corner and sees the destination in the distance, giving the body the energy and encouragement needed to reach the peak.

“We, the church, are precisely that body that Jesus, having ascended to heaven, pulls along with him,” he said. “It is he who awakens us and communicates to us, with his word and with the grace of the sacraments, the beauty of the homeland toward which we are headed.”

Members of the church, who are members Jesus’s body, he said, “ascend with joy together with him, our leader, knowing that the step of one is a step for all, and that no one must be lost or left behind because we are but one body.”

Pope Francis said that to take steps toward Jesus one must perform “the works of love: to give life, bring hope, steer away from any form of wickedness and meanness, respond to evil with good, be close to those who suffer.”

“The more we do this, the more we let ourselves be transformed by the Spirit,” he said, ” the more we follow his example, as in the mountains, we feel in the air around us become light and clean, the horizon broad and the destination near, words and gestures become good, the mind and heart expand and breathe.”

The pope encouraged Christians to reflect on whether they have a strong desire for God and eternal life, or if they are “a bit dulled and anchored to passing things or money or success or pleasure.”

“Does my desire for heaven isolate me, does it seal me off, or does it lead me to love my brothers and sisters with a big and selfless heart, to feel that they are my companions on the journey toward paradise?” he asked.

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