The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II Solemnity of the Lord's Ascension-A, 21 May 2023 Acts 1:1-11 ><}}}*> Ephesians 1:17-23 ><}}}*> Matthew 28:16-20
Last Sunday we reflected that leaving is the most painful part of loving. Every separation hurts us, whether it is temporary or permanent like death. However, leaving can also be the source of our deepest joy when every departure is because of love, for love.
When we truly love, we only wish the best for our beloved. And sometimes that happens when our beloved leaves like when Jesus told his disciples at the last supper that it is better for him to leave so that the Holy Spirit would come (Jn. 16:7).
Moreover, when a loved one leaves, we are certain he/she is coming to somewhere better, someone better. That is why we have said last week that every leaving is also a coming like our coming together as a relationship no longer bounded by time and space but happening in spirit and truth.
That is the joy of leaving – it is a coming into a deeper or higher level of relationship that no longer depends in time and space.
That is the meaning of the Lord’s Ascension we celebrate today.
That is why the Ascension is not to be seen as Jesus “floating” on air going up to heaven which is not just a place but more of a relationship with God who is everywhere. Ascension is Jesus Christ’s entry into another level of intimacy and glory with the Father he shares with us his disciples as a result of his Passion, Death, and Resurrection.
The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them. When they saw him, they worshipped, but they doubted. 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 28:16-20
It is in this context of a relationship, an intimate one, where we can understand fully what Matthew meant when he wrote how on the Ascension of Jesus, the disciples “worshipped, but they doubted him.” How could anyone worship but at the same time doubt?
Doubt here does not mean skepticism about the person of Jesus Christ. It has been 40 days since Easter and surely, the disciples have been convinced it was the Lord. The disciples’ doubt referred to their hesitancy to make a commitment to Jesus. No problem with Jesus. Problem was with the disciples. Just like us!
We recently celebrated our silver anniversary in the priesthood. All six of us classmates unanimously agree on the tremendous grace of still being priests after 25 years despite our many flaws. Most of all, amid our doubts and hesitancy 25 years ago if we could really be that faithful and good as priests of Jesus Christ. That was the doubt of the disciples. “Makaya ko kaya yung ipinag-utos ni Lord?” must be the question nagging them that moment.
Or, that doubt of the disciples may be likened with the doubts of a man and a woman getting married, both so afraid with the vows and commitments they would make if they could really be faithful and loving to each other, “for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.”
Remember that the Resurrection of Jesus did not instantly lead to a perfect faith for his followers who experienced it. They were still grappling with everything but have already embraced Jesus. There is no doubt with their love in Jesus. They were afraid for themselves they might fail, they might not measure up to Jesus whom they have failed on Holy Thursday and Good Friday. They were still wavering in their understanding and commitment to the Lord.
That is the good news of the Ascension – that amid all those doubts and hesitancies of his disciples, Jesus still believed in them, entrusting his mission to them, including us today. Imagine how everyday when we wake up, Jesus reminds us to “ascend” in him and with him to a higher level of relationship with the Father through one another in the exercise of our duties and responsibilities, in fulfilling our vows to God, to the Church, or to the country, to your wife, to your husband, to your office.
Like his disciples on that Ascension day, Jesus continues to entrust to us his Church his mission to the world because he believes in us even though he knows very well our imperfect faith.
Of course, it is difficult to make a complete and irrevocable commitment especially when there is the slightest doubt within us; but, most often what we do is to still make that bold step forward to grow deeper in that faith in God and with others than reduce or remove that little faith we have. This is most true as we have experienced in our relationships, that is why we celebrate anniversaries.
Have you noticed how these past ten years young lovers celebrate “monthsaries” that sometimes look so cheesy and baduy? It was only recently have a realized how our young people are really serious with their relationships, with things of the heart like faith, hope and love. Their celebrations of their “monthsaries” indicate how the young generation desires long term relationships, celebrating each month of triumph over their initial doubts of keeping their love alive.
Even parents these days post pictures of the “monthsaries” of their babies to show how they have grown since birth which also indicate how the parents themselves have grown and matured despite so many odds and doubts within them in nursing, nurturing the life of another person, of their offspring.
These are all indications of our imperfect faith that gets perfected, gets deeper and stronger in the passing of each day every time we assert it. Not when we discard it. Try recalling those instances when you doubted your abilities in fulfilling a mission or assignment, in keeping a relationship and see how far you have gone now in life.
Nobody is perfect. Everyone, including the most accomplished and successful people among us have our strengths and weaknesses. We all have our different areas of doubts we still struggle up to this time but that does not diminish the faith we possess. In fact, that is how our faith have grown deeper, our love perfected while our relationships leveled up higher than before.
This Sunday, Jesus does not only command us to fulfill his mission entrusted to us more than 2000 years ago through his eye-witnesses who made up the first community of disciples.
We who comprise this community of disciples today are likewise assured of Christ’s grace for us to grow in our faith and commitment to him.
Like in the first reading, we are reminded by the angels not to be idle nor complacent but instead to go out to fulfill Christ’s mission of proclaiming his gospel in words and in deeds.
Every Sunday we proclaim our faith in Christ’s death and resurrection until he comes again. That second coming belongs to our time. St. Paul is encouraging us in the second reading “to enlighten the eyes of our hearts” (Eph. 1:18) to realize how God had done everything and continues to do everything in Christ for us to mature in our faith, helping us in every step of our journey as disciples of Jesus. We cannot see the whole path of the journey but each step forward is enough for us to progress in our faith expressed in our loving service to one another.
This is the gist of the Pope’s Message for this Sunday’s World Communication Day, of “Speaking with the heart” which means to communicate in love and in truth, not with lies and fake news. To speak with the heart is to have a heart opened to love in strengthening our relationships not in destroying them like what is happening in the world with so much divisions and polarizations. Speaking with the heart means leaving behind our mistrust and doubts for one another in order to make that bold step toward peace by recognizing each one as a brother and sister in Christ. Amen. Have a blessed week ahead!