Ah…… Jasper! I am here this week with the other priests of the Archdiocese of Edmonton for our annual study days. In my opinion this is one of the most beautiful places on the planet. Surrounded by majestic mountains, one cannot help but marvel at God’s creative power. Yet even though a place such as this offers what one might call the “summit” of creation’s beauty, it is but a mere reflection of the splendour of the Creator. Meditative wonder at creation opens one’s heart and mind to the mystery of transcendence and ultimately to the One who is the Transcendent, who is the Beautiful, who is God. This leads in turn to wonderment concerning the purpose of things. What is the meaning of life? Where is it leading? Who is the One who has fashioned such magnificence, who has given me life, and why?
The message of the Gospel is that these questions have an answer. It proclaims that God, some of whose attributes can be known through human reason’s contemplation of nature (cf. Romans 1:20) has fully revealed himself in Jesus Christ. Furthermore, in Christ God has also revealed to us the full truth concerning ourselves and our destiny (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 22). Meditation on the beauty of nature opens our souls to the deepest of questions. Contemplation of the beauty of Christ leads us to their answers.
One such answer given in Jesus Christ is the response to the question of destiny. Yesterday the Church celebrated the solemn feast of the Ascension of the Lord, and in that liturgy recalled the return of the Lord to the right hand of the Father. The ascent of the Lord in his human nature, in our human nature, manifests the destiny of all humanity. Awareness of this truth gives meaning and purpose to our lives and thus offers real hope. Unaware of where our lives are leading, we can slip into a sense of meaninglessness, a lack of direction, and this in turn can cause confusion, anxiety and even despair.
Perhaps a helpful example to illustrate this is the increasingly prevalent global positioning technology. Today we have very sophisticated global positioning systems (GPS) that are used in airplanes, ships and cars, and even on the golf course. Once a destination is determined and entered into the GPS device, a satellite pinpoints your position and then provides the necessary directions. The success of this wonderful technology hinges upon knowing the destination. Only then can directions be given. Without the destination, the journey would have no direction and thus be nothing more than a series of meaningless turns. There would be no way of knowing which turn was right and which one was wrong.
When humanity does not understand its destination, or refuses to acknowledge it, then life quickly becomes meaningless, like a GPS giving directions to nowhere. In life we encounter innumerable crossroads where important decisions need to be made. Without understanding the destination, we lose any sense of where we are going and whether the decisions we make are right or wrong, helpful or harmful. Such a situation is a breeding ground for despair.
But there is no need for such loss of direction and meaning. The ascension of the Lord reveals God’s purpose in creating us: He wills that we be with him forever. He sent his Son both to reveal this destiny and to be the Way that leads to its fulfillment. Since Jesus assumed our very human nature in his Incarnation, and then both rose from the dead and ascended into heaven in that same nature, we live with the hope that where he has gone we will someday follow (cf. Preface for the Mass of the Ascension). The truth of our destiny, as revealed and fulfilled in Christ, gives perspective and meaning to all aspects of our lives, enables us to discern right from wrong in the many decisions that face us daily, and thus helps us to live each day with real hope.