June 5, 2011
I vividly remember a nightmare I had as a child. No, it did not have anything to do with monsters and goblins and ghouls, and ghosts. It had to do with the terror of being hopelessly alone, in the dark, with no one within arm’s length, no one to hear my silent screams.
Being alone is not a very bright prospect. It could be unnerving, if not, terrifying. In this postmodern world of internet and media connectivity, via social networking sites and all, being alone is a curse.
It is very reassuring to hear the Lord once more remind us: “I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
This is what ascension Sunday is all about. It is about taking leave, but promising abiding presence. Almost sounding contradictory, it is about the Lord saying “good-bye” but assuring us that he will, in the end, be always with us.
But more than leaving and being present, the mystery of the Ascension of the Lord, is really a huge reminder of something truly important for us. And what is important for us is that we are by no means, orphans, left aside to fend for ourselves. Ascension reminds us that call for all those who believe – a call to a life above and beyond what we know, a call to rise above what we think is normal, a life that sometimes makes us feel condemned to accept as hopelessly unavoidable.
Let me tell you some of what I feel are situations and conditions that make me feel condemned to simply accept …
First in my list is the situation of corruption in and out of government. I see it everywhere, from the highest offices of the land down to the lowliest branch of government … from the most prestigious schools down to the most forlorn and forgotten state schools. It all seems everyone is on the take … everyone is poised to take advantage.
Second in my list is the situation of the Church that I love. I sometimes feel hemmed in by what appears to be a growing polarization in our ranks … those who act more like Catholic Talibans, on the one hand, and those who are extremely liberal who ridicule Papal teachings and official pronouncements – breeding generations of “cafeteria catholics” who choose what to believe, and discard what they don’t feel like accepting!
Third in my list is the appalling incidence of absolute poverty all over, especially in the Philippines. But I don’t refer to material poverty alone, but more especially to moral poverty – the sort that leads governments to ride rough shod on human dignity and freedom in the name of solving poverty, principally by getting rid of the poor simply put, by means fair or foul.
I have a lot more, but this homily (reflection) is not meant to be a tale of woes.
In fact, it is meant to follow the path of the Ascension of the Lord! It is meant to remind us that the call of the Lord for us is precisely what is behind the celebration that we are doing today.
The Lord is not just risen. He also ascended up to heaven. And when the Lord rose and ascended, it was not just to do an air show. It was not just something for us to behold, look at, and admire. It was meant for us. We are called to the same glory. And that call is what gives us undying hope!
This is the core message I would like to leave to you today – the need for us to reappropriate the hope that belongs to His call, as St. Paul tells the Ephesians.
When we are beset by so many oppressive and depressing realities, such as I enumerated above, we tend to forget … we end up getting more than just distressed. We lose verve and enthusiasm, and like the famous experiment of some famous psychologist who worked with dogs, we acquire what he called “learned helplessness.” We learn to live with the pain. We learn to grow callous to them, and we end being uncaring and downright indifferent!
There is no room for indifference today. First, he tells us in no uncertain terms: “I will be with you always, until the end of the age.” Second, his rising and ascending shows us, we are called to the same destiny. And third, this sure destiny is what is behind our hope.
Let us go on hoping, even as we go on struggling. We know how it will all end up. And it will all end up, not on a hill, (what Matthew calls a ‘mountain’). That end is life forever with God in the next! What else in this world can beat that?