ASCENSION SUNDAY, YEAR B
By Fr. Euly Belizar
I once a heard a true story about a group of Pinoys and a white American in an elevator somewhere in LA (Los Angeles). At the fourth floor the door opened and one Pinoy was outside, hesitant to come in. Seeing kababayans inside he asked, “Bababa ba (Going down)?” The Pinoys inside almost as one answered, “Bababa (Going down)!” The Pinoy got in. The American, quite flustered and bewildered, said: “How can you people communicate with BABABA (pronounced BAH BAH BAH)?” All Pinoys smiled at him and explained what it all meant.
Seriously, sometimes we think life is like an elevator. At some point we seem to be going down when we experience failures or sad moments; at others, we seem moving up when we succeed or achieve goals. Is Jesus’ Acension any different?
Moreover, we often think of ‘asenso’, which is derived from ascension, as getting more power, money, prestige and everything that goes with them. This Ascension Sunday St Augustine reminds us: Jesus’ Ascension has nothing earthly to its sense. It is rather Jesus’ “entrance into a new and glorious state of being”.
Our readings show us what this glorious state of being means.
Paul the apostle in his letter to the Ephesians tells us the ascension is the Father’s seal of approval upon his Son’s words and deeds on earth, especially his passion, death & resurrection that he went through for our salvation. The Father’s approval results in the Son’s exaltation “far above every principality, power, virtue and domination, and every name”. Our right response? What else but humble submission.
Two, Mark the evangelist tells us: The ascension means Jesus is now “seated at the right hand of the Father”, that is, he now fully fulfills his role as Priest, Prophet and King. In a word, Jesus’ glorification doesn’t mean he has abandoned us; rather he has become closer to us through his gift of the Holy Spirit who continues in us the work of Jesus.
But we are not meant to simply contemplate the Lord’s ascension like it’s a work of divine art. God’s action in Jesus ascended requires, too, our response. In the Acts heavenly beings remind us that Jesus’ ascension means we must work to make the earth like heaven from where Jesus will return the way he was taken up. Mark wants us to take the clue from the eleven who “preached everywhere” and allowed the Lord to “work with them…through signs which accompanied them”. I used to know a family who could hardly eat three times a day. But when the children started graduating from college, their lives changed for the better. They acquired a home of their own, lived more comfortably but still remained deeply in touch with their former neighbors, extending help to poorer families. Everybody calls them “asensado (having climbed up)”. When a family member or members, as it were, “move up” in life, all members of the family enjoy his better status. Jesus’ ascension is also our hope of sharing with him the glory and endless joy of heaven. He is, after all, our head; we are his Body, his family.
But, of course, to join Jesus in heaven we must start by everyday following his gospel here on earth.