Ascension of the Lord (B)
Today’s world situates us in one or more of the following: first, in a world of high technology, where our capabilities and our time are spent, and we become willing subjects of its fast pace; second, in situations of war and violence, calamities and misfortune, where, despite our weakness and incapacities, we do what we can, and entrust our lives to fate; and third, in situations where everything seems well provided for, and all we have to do is follow the directions of the influential and the knowledgeable.
However, in his letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul teaches us that in Jesus we have a great hope, immeasurable riches and unparalleled power.
1. “May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened that you may know what the hope is that belongs to his call” (Eph 1:18). This hope is Jesus Himself in union with the Father and the Holy Spirit. His call is His constant invitation “to be holy as the Father is holy.” Thus we respond to His invitation to live in union with Him in our responsibilities and relationships.
2. “May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened that you may know…. the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones….” (Eph 1:18b). This wealth of glory is Jesus Himself and all the virtues that we possess in His name. He is the inheritance of the Kingdom promised by the Father to those who remain faithful to Him.
3. “May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened that you may know…. the surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe” (Eph 1:18a&19). This power is Jesus Himself and all the accompanying signs that are made manifest in those who proclaim His Name and who live according to His commands. This power has the greatness that no creature or technology can surpass; it is the Power against evil and sin; it is the Power against mediocrity and indifference. He is the Power from whom all authority, capacity and competence are derived.
The Ascension of the Lord brings out the truth of our Christianity and our humanity. On one hand, Jesus came to the world, lived among us, suffered, died and rose again from the dead. On the other hand, because of the Life of Jesus in us, life here on earth is not meaningless, we understand the meaning of our endeavors and of suffering and we have joyful hope in the life to come. A letter to Diognetius reveals that Christians
live in their own countries as though they were only passing through. They play their full role as citizens, but labor under all the disabilities of aliens…. Like others, they marry and have children, but they do not expose them. They share their meals, but not their wives. They live in the flesh but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven….
Christians love all men, but all men persecute them. Condemned because they are not understood, they are put to death, but raised to life again. They live in poverty, but enrich many; they are totally destitute, but possess an abundance of everything. They suffer dishonor, but that is their glory. They are defamed, but vindicated. A blessing is their answer to abuse, deference their response to insult. For the good they do they receive the punishment of malefactors, but even then they rejoice, as though receiving the gift of life.
In Jesus, poverty is our way to being filled with God’s riches. With open hands and hearts He can fill us with His wealth and His power. In Jesus, wealth of virtues is our way to holiness and to His Kingdom. In Jesus, the greatness of His power is the strength in our weakness and our shield against evil and sin.
In union with the apostles, who were promised signs that would accompany their faith, we can also expel the demons of hatred, anger, lust, arrogance and indifference, and bring peace. In the midst of hatred and envy, we can also speak the language of compassion and sacrifice. We can also pick up the serpents of loneliness and depression, harsh judgment and persecution, and proclaim the death and resurrection of Jesus with joy and gratitude. We can also drink the poison of criticism and mistreatment, and bring forgiveness and hope. We can also lay compassionate hands on the lonely, the misguided, the ignorant, and the needy, and open up their hearts to joyful hope. We can also extend our hands where there is much anxiety and conflict, so that divisions are healed and emotions calm down.
Thus, the Ascension of the Lord will not just be for us an event to remember, but a life to be lived and a hope to pursue. The Eucharist presents to us a life of hope that saves, a hope that is realized only in Jesus, and a celebration that we proclaim for the life of the world.