June 1, 2015
UP TO HEAVEN; OUT INTO THE WORLD
Parents who work day in and day out have to leave their dear children everyday. For many young Filipino parents, one or both of them even have to go abroad to earn a living. For the rest who work here, they leave beloved toddlers and young children to either their yaya or their own parents, the grandparents.
I talk about leaving because that is precisely what the Ascension of the Lord is NOT about. This is also true of Filipino parents who leave home either on the long or short haul. They don’t leave home to be away. They leave home or country to be more effectively present in shaping the future of their children.
Ascension is not about Christ leaving us to go home and away from us. Ascension is all about Christ being glorified and going home to the Father, but not to be away from His flock.
Go back to the gospel of Matthew today and see if I don’t make sense. Nowhere in today’s gospel passage does Matthew refer to the fact of the Ascension itself.
Young parents may leave home and may not be physically present to their children, but they are anything but absent. Studies show that when Skype and Facetime weren’t in vogue yet, the telephone was a very handy gadget to keep one’s presence to family back home intact. When texting came to the fore, texts flew back and forth – from HongKong to Honolulu; from Copenhagen to Cincinnati; from Manila to Maldives, etc.
The Lord deserves the glory He got for He is Son of God. Ascension is about the glorious – if, inscrutable mystery of God’s majesty and glory – something that we mortals cannot fully fathom, nor truly appreciate. But God’s majesty and glory does not translate to God being up there and man being down here, with the two parties incapable of truly being intimate. That is not what salvation history has shown us.
All of salvation history as recorded in Scripture is all about God bending over backwards to accommodate us. It is all about God coming down so that man might go up to Him, in heaven, our only true home. It is all about presence. It is based on the fact and mystery of the Incarnation, which means God being Emmanuel, God being with us, in Christ, His Son.
No. Ascension does not mean Good-bye. No … Ascension does not mean Christ going UP to be AWAY from us, but Christ going up to be glorified, so that we may also become like Him. Ascension is all about indwelling presence through GRACE. He was, and is, present in HISTORY. He is still present in MYSTERY.
But there is a clincher … His going UP, NOT AWAY, is a going OUT for Him and for us. He sends us out … out into the world, to preach the gospel, to baptize, to save … Like He did … Like He still does … Like we ought … Like we are called to do.
Ascension, ultimately, is never about absence, but about presence in a more effective, mysterious, yet real way. For Christ remains to be what Scripture has always said He is … EMMANUEL – GOD WITH US.
Mane nobiscum, Domine! Semper et pro semper!