The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe, Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, 24 May 2020
Acts of the Apostles 1:1-11 ><)))*> Ephesians 4:1-13 ><)))*> Matthew 28:16-20
We are now at the penultimate Sunday of the Easter Season with the Solemnity of the Ascension of Jesus into heaven. Next Sunday we close the season with Pentecost and begin the Ordinary Time following Monday.
But, with our situation expected to last until 2021 when we shall have a vaccine against COVID-19, it still feels like Lent for many of us who now feel the economic and psychological impact of this pandemic.
More than ever before, we are challenged today to give testimony to Christ’s Resurrection so we can grasp the meaning and beauty of our celebration today.
The Ascension of Jesus is not about his movement or change of residence from earth into heaven or some remote part of the deep space to start his “working from home”: the Ascension of Jesus is the “leveling up” of the relationship of Christ with his disciples who include us all today.
Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”Matthew 28:18-20
Giving testimony to the Risen Christ
Notice how our gospel today does not speak much about Jesus Christ’s ascension or his being taken up to heaven unlike with Luke both in his gospel account and Book of Acts of the Apostles.
With Matthew, it is very clear that with Jesus Christ’s departure comes the mission to give testimony to him who is risen from the dead. Every disciple’s testimony is essentially his/her mission to proclaim to the world that Jesus is alive, that he is Life itself.
Like during his Ascension on a hill outside Jerusalem, Jesus is calling us all today to gather again around him, to seek those who are lost and forgotten in order to bring them all together in Christ especially at this time when people suffer more from the neglect and double-standards of this government than from COVID-19 itself.
Where is God?
We are about to end two great seasons in our liturgical calendar but it seems that we are stuck in the Holy Week. We wonder what have happened to us in this pandemic when every scene we see, every situation we are into are unbelievable, something we see only in movies. And this one’s for real!
For those of us who have not lived through wars like our parents, the atrocities of Martial Law like others, or great catastrophes like the Baguio earthquake of 1990 and the recent “Yolanda” in Samar and Leyte, when the only sufferings we can “brag” are “Ondoy” and EDSA traffic, we now live life in the most uncertain way. In between the temporary escapes and respites offered by Netflix and social media platforms, we go through a lot of self-doubts, sometimes with fits of depression or sadness and loneliness especially when the day ends and darkness begins to envelop us.
For the first time, many of us have truly experienced of not having that much in life, whether they are family and friends, or money and things.
This is the call of the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord: that we gather ourselves anew, our families and friends, our memories, most of all, our faith and hope in God whom we have always taken for granted all these years.
This is the great challenge of our time as Christians: how can we be like the Apostles and other followers of Jesus along with his Mother the Blessed Virgin Mary be filled with joy at his departure, bearing all the pains and sufferings of persecution in this time of the corona virus?
Can we gather ourselves anew – not only our family and friends but our very selves to proclaim in our lives, in our presence, in our social media posts, in everything that Jesus Christ is risen, that he is with us always?
Brothers and sisters: May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a Spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of him. 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, in accord with the exercise of his great might….Ephesians 1:17-19
Opening our hearts
I have always loved that part of St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, imploring God that the eyes of our hearts may be enlightened, that we may be opened to the truths and realities of Jesus Christ truly alive in our midst.
Giving testimony that Jesus Christ is risen, that he is alive, that he is Life itself needs an open heart.
Our minds will never be enough to capture, to understand and process everything about the Resurrection of Jesus Christ because it is something beyond history, beyond logic. We are sure it had truly happened, leaving imprints in the hearts and persons of all of Christ’s followers, from his first witnesses like the apostles down to us in our own time. What we need are listening hearts, seeing hearts… hearts that are open to the realities of God dwelling in us.
You must have followed the news last week about Mang Dodong of Caloocan City who was detained for more than ten days in Navotas where he was caught buying fish without a quarantine pass.
We were all saddened and affected by the news because it was at that same time when the President had pardoned and retained in position a police general who had violated quarantine rules he had vowed to implement. In fact, so severely in many instances including with Mang Dodong!
Good news is how so many people helped him pay his bail to be set free. That’s the risen Jesus working in our own time!
The path of love towards Easter and Ascension
What really makes this quarantine period too difficult and painful is not COVID-19 itself but the incompetence and injustice of this government personified by officials who are mostly arrogant, inconsistent, liars, and closed from the realities of life. They are so blinded by material things that they see businesses like malls as more essential than houses of worship that remain closed up to this day (unfortunately, even our bishops are so silent about it except for a few of them).
Sometimes, I feel we are not doing enough as witnesses and disciples of Christ, that we must be bolder and more adamant in insisting what is right, what is just with various social media platforms offering us venues for expressing our views.
But, as I prayed more about the pandemic in the light of our Risen Lord Jesus Christ, the more I see him present in his seeming absence by being silent amidst all these threats of the pandemic worsened by the government’s irresponsibilities, insensitivities, and injustice.
To give testimony to the Risen Lord, to make disciples of all nations, and to teach everyone all he had commanded us to observe need not use force. Like Jesus and the Father, we need to remain gentle and patient despite the violence prevailing around us.
See how God patiently waited for the fullness of time before sending us his Son; and when Jesus was born, notice also the many trials he went through from Bethlehem to Egypt and back to Nazareth, reaching its highest point in his Passion and Death on the Cross on Good Friday.
Then came Easter Sunday and now, his Ascension.
Everything happened in silence, so gently and gradually, mostly with only a few people present.
That has always been the way of God from the Old Testament to the New Testament and right into our own time: no use of external powers and violent forces, only freedom to offer and elicit love that conquers all.
Today we are also celebrating the 54th World Communication Sunday, the only feast mandated by Vatican II for us to realize the importance of modern means of communications in proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ.
For this year, Pope Francis has chosen the topic of the human story, of how our individual story is woven into our collective stories as a family, nation, and church. And the good news is, according to the Pope, all these stories of ours are made part of God’s story of love, the greatest story of all, the story that renews us.
Yes, we all have dark stories in this time of pandemic. Or even in childhood or the past. But, if we look into our hearts in prayer and in faith, we find Jesus there, loving us, keeping us, guiding us. Most of all, authenticating his resurrection in us, in our own life!
There are more beautiful stories we can tell during this pandemic that enable others to see the Risen Lord among us. Let us entrust ourselves to Jesus, to keep our hearts open as he authenticates our many experiences of witnessing to his Resurrection like he did to all others ahead of us.
Be assured we are on the right path in him. Amen.