“Jesus opened the door of heaven for us to follow”

“Jesus opened the door of heaven for us to follow”

A homily preached by
Father Paul Farren

On The Feast of the Ascension of the Lord at
St. Eugene Cathedral, Derry, Northern Ireland

To have somebody going in front of you can give you a lot more confidence on a journey.  It is a much simpler journey when you don’t have to rely on directions or GPS or memory.  When you have somebody in front of you who knows where they are going you can have freedom to enjoy the journey. You don’t have to worry and fret about taking the wrong turn or getting lost. 


In many ways for a long time many of us probably thought that we knew the way through life.  We probably didn’t see any great need for directions or GPS or memory not to mention somebody going in front of us.  We had a confidence in ourselves.  We knew what we wanted.  For the most part we knew how to get it and we thought we knew where we were going.  I suppose you could say that life was under control. 


Then this all happened.  If living life is like travelling a road then what has happened is the road has been blocked.  For so long now we can’t move.  We can’t even do the most basic things that we took for granted in life.  So much has been stopped – has been closed.  The bizarre thing is that time hasn’t stopped.  We have this strange sensation.  So much of life has stopped yet time seems to be going faster.  It is now nearly the end of May and we are stuck back in March.  It is not making sense.  We are travelling through time without moving.  We can never reclaim the days and the weeks and the months that have gone. 


This is all new.  We have lost control.  We have lost direction and we don’t know what to do.  We can fight or we can fear.  We can fight the regulations and we can break out or we can fear ever meeting people in a crowd again.  So what do we do? 


The first thing we have to be honest about is that we have very little control over our lives when a new strain of the common cold can block nearly every road we want to go on.  So, what do we do?  Do we admit defeat and just sit in the house and say what is the point? 


Today’s feast answers this question with an answer that the world cannot give.  Today Jesus ascended into heaven.  He took the road home before us.  He opened the door of heaven for us to follow.  That is what we celebrate today.  Home is opened up and Jesus is leading us there if we want to follow.  You see we can’t get home on our own because we don’t know the way.  There is no GPS or directions for heaven.  The only way you get there is by following Jesus.  If we want to go to heaven, we need to follow Jesus.  We need to share in his life.  He tells us that he is going to be with us always.  He is there to lead us home always.  The wonderful thing about the journey home is that nothing in this world can impede that journey.  If we are following Jesus, there are no roadblocks.  You can follow Jesus no matter where you are – no matter what you are doing – no matter what you are able to do or not able to do. 


It is bizarre that in today’s society at this moment you cannot go into a shoe shop and buy a pair or shoes.  You cannot go into a café and sit and have a cup of coffee.  You can’t even go to school.  Yet you can still follow Jesus.  In all of this lockdown time we can still follow Jesus.  As a matter of fact, in this time we can follow him more closely than ever before because we have more time to focus on Jesus. 


You see the fact that time continues to move on despite the reality that so many other things have stopped means that we are getting closer and closer to the moment when it is home time.  We can use this time, this strange and fast-moving time, to ensure that we are not lost at home time.  We can use this time to find Jesus again or to follow him more closely if he is in our sights.  This is our time.  Let’s not waste it.  Let’s do something we can do and something that will impact on our lives not just while we still remain in this world but let’s do something that enables us to have the confidence to walk home without any fear of getting lost because we know that every step we take we step into the footstep of Jesus.  Then we can say to Jesus in the words of the beloved in the Song of Songs – draw me in your footsteps.  Let us run!


Fr. Paul Farren, a native of Ireland, was ordained a priest in 1997. He studied in St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth, and The Catholic University of America in Washington DC. He is currently Administrator of St. Eugene’s Cathedral and Long Tower Church, Templemore Parish, Diocesan Advisor in Post Primary Education, and Director of their Catechetical Centre. He is the author of two books for Paraclete Press: Vulnerable and Free: An encouragement for those trying to live as followers of Jesus and Freedom and Forgiveness: A Fresh Look at the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

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