Ascension Sunday

GOD’S WORD TODAY - Florge Michael Sy, S.J. -

How does one tell an overseas contract worker who was beaten black and blue, raped and left half-dead by her employer to be joyful because it’s Ascension Sunday? How about the family of a father who died of heatstroke after queuing for hours under the heat of the sun to get a few kilos of NFA rice, or a mother whose daughter took her own life after she was raped by her stepfather? How shall we tell them to have hope and give glory to God because Christ, after his death and resurrection, ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father?

Today the Church commemorates the solemnity of the Lord’s Ascension.  We proclaim this great mystery every time we profess the Creed, “…He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.”

Perhaps, reflecting more deeply on the relevance of the Lord’s Ascension in our ordinary lives may give us a flicker of hope despite the tragedies we face. The  mystery of the Ascension opens up at least three events for us.

The Sending of the Holy Spirit. In the midst of what’s happening in the world around us, we can ask God the same question asked by the disciples, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” This very straightforward and simple question says a lot. It is asking Jesus when he is going to end injustice, poverty, hunger, violence, corruption, pain, and suffering. These were not wanting in Jesus’ time. They are still here in our time. The disciples were asking Jesus when he is going to fully establish His kingdom where peace, joy, bounty, love, and glory abound. I wonder if this same question has ever crossed our minds too. Yet, Jesus’ response then to the disciples and also to us now is instructive. “It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority.”

But Jesus was quick not to put His disciples to despair. He promised them, as he promises us now, “You will receive power (to overcome grief, sorrow, despair) when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.” Jesus promised to send us an advocate, a consoler, an inspirer to strengthen us when we need it most. Thus, Jesus’ ascension into heaven has given way to the sending of His Spirit, who remains with us.

Men and Women of the Mission. Jesus’ Ascension opens up our own participation in His mission. We hear in the Gospel that just before He ascended into heaven, Jesus compelled his disciples and us to “Go 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.” Simply put, we Christians are sent by our Lord to continue what He has started. We are to take on Jesus’ ministry as our own. We are to continue His ministry of love and compassion. We are called to be like Him who brought hope to those who have none, consolation to the desolate, strength to the weak, food to the hungry, rest to the weary, and love to the abandoned and abused. After all, as St. Teresa of Avila profoundly puts it,

“Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours; yours are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion looks out at the world, yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good, yours are the hands with which he is to bless us now.”

Jesus’ second coming. Jesus’ ascension prepares us for another great mystery. In God’s appointed time, Jesus will come again. The disciples who were looking on as Jesus was being lifted up to heaven were told by two men dressed in white garments, “This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.”

This is what we believe in and hope for. Jesus will come again. He will return to put an end to all injustice, poverty, hunger, violence, corruption, pain, and suffering. He will come to establish His kingdom where peace, bounty, joy, love, and glory abound. At that time there shall be no more tears for the glory of God will cover the entire earth.

Reflecting on what the Lord’s Ascension into heaven has opened up for us, we can humbly tell those who have suffered much that there is reason to hope because God’s Spirit is with us to strengthen us, God sends people to be His instruments on this earth, and the second coming of Jesus will ultimately end all suffering. All things shall be well. To quote Blessed Julian of Norwich, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well” for those who continue to love and trust in the Lord.

(Fr. Florge Sy is the pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish on the island of Culion in Palawan. Feedback to this column may be emailed to  [email protected])






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