Heaven is already ours a little bit, says Pope Francis. And here's why.
Just one verse each day.
Before praying the midday Regina Caeli with pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis reflected on the feast of the Ascension, which is celebrated today in Italy and in various other countries. (In some dioceses, it is still celebrated on the traditional date of Ascension Thursday, keeping with the biblical timeline of nine days before Pentecost).
The Pope proposed that the feast of the Ascension “can raise several questions – at least two.”
The first question: Why celebrate Jesus’s departure from the earth? It would seem that his departure would be a sad moment, not exactly something to rejoice over! Why celebrate a departure? First question.
Second question: What does Jesus do now in heaven? First question: Why celebrate? Second question: What does Jesus do in heaven?
The Pope went on to propose the answers to these questions. We celebrate, he said, because with the Ascension “something new and beautiful happened: Jesus brought our humanity, our flesh, into heaven – this is the first time – that is, he brought it in God. That humanity that he had assumed on earth did not remain here. The risen Jesus was not a spirit, no. He had his human body, flesh and bones, everything. He will be there in God.”
Thus the Pope continued, “We could say that from the day of the Ascension on, God himself “changed” – from that point on, he is not only spirit, but such is his love for us that he bears our own flesh in himself, our humanity!”
Heaven is already ours a little bit
In this way, it is clear to see how Heaven is our destiny, the Holy Father said.
The place awaiting us is thus indicated; that is our destiny. Thus wrote an ancient Father in the faith: “What splendid news! He who became man for us […] to make us his brothers, presents himself as man before the Father to bear with himself all those who are joined with him” (St. Gregory of Nyssa, Discourse on the Resurrection of Christ, 1).
Today, we celebrate “heaven’s conquest” – Jesus, who returns to the Father, but with our humanity. And so, heaven is already ours a little bit. Jesus has opened the door and his body is there.
What does Jesus do there?
Then the Pope moved to the second question, about what Jesus does in heaven.
He is there for us before the Father, continually showing our humanity to him – showing him his wounds. I like to think that Jesus, prays like this in front of the Father – making him see his wounds. “This is what I suffered for humanity: Do something!”
He shows the Father the price of our redemption. The Father is moved. This is something I like to think about. But think about it yourselves. This is how Jesus prays.[…]. In a word, Jesus intercedes. He is in a better “place,” before his Father and ours, to intercede on our behalf.
The Pope said that prayer of intercession “is fundamental” and that knowing in faith that Jesus is there “helps us, too – not to lose hope, not to get discouraged. Before the Father, there is someone who makes him see his wounds and intercedes.”
Find here a Novena to the Sacred Heart with reflections from Pope Francis on the 5 Wounds.