Acts 1:1-11; Ephesians 1:17-23; Matthew 28:16-20 Virtual Absence Real Presence
What do the Lord’s Ascension and the Covid-19 pandemic have in common?
- The order to “go home!”
To contain the spread of the coronavirus, quarantine and lockdown were put in place and everyone was ordered to go and stay home.
At His ascension, Jesus ordered his disciples to go back home to Galilee and discover a new way of relating with Him.
For us now, it may not be just coming home to the house but to the solitude of the heart. Stories abound and continue to spread of how people get the most of their time at home and feel God’s love and mercy. Amid fears and anxieties, there is the grace of rediscovering peace in God’s presence.
Just like how computer programs and applications need to be updated. so too should our faith relationship with God. Indeed, we too are exhorted to go back to ourselves and find an ‘updated’ relationship with others — our family, friends, and especially with God.
For Jesus, too, it’s going back to the glory with the Father, from where He promised first, to send the Holy Spirit, and second, to take us all with him at the end of time.
- The reversal of presence and absence:
At home, family members who were once mostly absent from each other and connected only virtually through the use of technology and gadgets are now made really present to each other. My long-time friends, a wonderful couple in California, shared how they are now enjoying the company of their four young adult children, one of whom is my godson, in real time, in person.
At the ascension, Christ who was once very present to his disciple — teaching, feeding, healing, bringing back to life, exalting, rebuking — now seems to prepare to become absent from them. But later we shall see that this is actually not a change of presence to absence but from limited presence to real presence to more people — to all people, boundless both in time and space.
- How quickly to spread…
With the worldwide pandemic, we take necessary precautions to stop the coronavirus from further spreading. With the Lord’s Ascension, we are exhorted to all the more vigorously spread the Good News of His Salvation.
- The paradox of paradoxes:
Notice how Matthew narrated how after worshipping the Risen Lord, doubt still lingers in the disciples. But no sooner did he also narrate how Jesus ordered them to go and baptize. Instead of rebuking, it is with these doubting disciples that the Lord entrusts the perpetuation of his mission of propagating God’s Kingdom.
Fr. Richard Rohr proposes the idea that the opposite of faith is not doubt but certainty. Yes, for what is the need of faith if one is already certain about something and does not need the spiritual assent or trust because logic suffices. Truly, with God, even doubt is rendered noble and empowering by all the more transforming it into the reason for faith in Him.
- Who trusts who more?
In this time of pandemic, we are reduced to trust people in authority to guide our conduct of life.
In the Lord’s Ascension: Who trusts who more? Jesus obviously trusts the disciples. The disciples did not and could not refuse the order. Do they trust themselves, their abilities to carry out Christ’s orders? No, they trust the Lord more fully as He gave them the assurance of his power and presence, saying: “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, 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. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” Matthew reiterated, not I will be, but I am with you.
Now, it’s our turn to share in this same mission and the Lord will see to it that it is fulfilled through us despite our weakness,
The Lord needed to incarnate into our humanity, to suffer and die and resurrect to fulfill his mission and attain to his glory. This tells us so much. Our frail humanity does not obstruct; it cannot deny us but actually it is exactly in our humanity that God blesses us with the grace of redemption. Our frailty and weakness all the more qualify us to receive his love and mercy.
Just see how in these pandemic times that it is the people’s needfulness that qualifies them for government aid. It’s not the wealthy who already have sufficient means to whom assistance is poured upon.
And finally, at this Solemnity of the Lord’s Ascension, we are even given another grace-filled example of how He calls us to Himself, of how He upgrades our encounter with Him — with Fr. Richard’s passing on to eternal life with Him. Now we have another intercessor with God in heaven.
May we all the more live in His presence and be instruments of perpetuating His real presence among us.