FEASTING ON THE WORD
"If you meditate on the Scriptures it will appear to you in its brilliant splendor." ―St. Pio of Pietrelcina
The Ascension of the Lord (A)
Acts of the Apostles 1:1-11 | Psalm 47:2-3, 6-7, 8-9 | Ephesians 1:17-23 | Matthew 28:16-20
Today is the 40th day since Easter. The Easter story and the story of salvation are approaching their climax. What does the Ascension of Jesus Christ mean to all of us? First, Ascension guides us to capture the vision of our Lord. Secondly, it directs us to pray for wisdom and revelation.
Finally, it commands us to take up God's work on earth.
In 1920s the noted priest-engineer Fr. Roque Ruaño, O.P. was supervising the construction of the magnificent University of Santo Tomas Main Building in Manila. A journalist thought it would be interesting to interview some of the workers, so he chose three and asked them this question, “What are you doing?” The first replied, “I’m cutting stone for ten centavos a day.” The next answered, “I’m putting in nine hours a day on this job.” But the third said, “I’m helping Fr. Ruaño construct the first earthquake-shock resistant building in Asia."
We have a job to do, a mission to fulfill. In the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles, Jesus is taken up to heaven in the presence of the apostles. As he ascends into heaven he spells out our main job description as Christian disciples: “You will be my witnesses…to the ends of the earth”. Jesus taught us lessons of faith, hope, love, forgiveness, mercy and salvation both by living and by preaching them. Our task is to bring them to others in the same ways. Hence, let us learn all Jesus did and taught through daily study of the Bible and the teachings of the Church, experience Jesus in personal prayer, reception of the Sacraments and works of charity, and, with the help of the Holy Spirit, convey to others Jesus whom we have experienced. This is what the whole Church has done in a thousand ways throughout the ages, and what each one of us is called to do in our own family, friends and acquaintances.
Prof. Marita Constantino taught English literature at University of Santo Tomas for twenty five years until her retirement in 2006. Marking an examination paper shortly before Christmas one year, Constantino came across the note: “Only God knows the answer to this question. Merry Christmas.” Constantino returned the paper with this note: “God gets a 1.00. You get a 5.00. Happy New Year.”
Earthly wisdom can be faulty, and more often than not, it is faulty. In his Letter to the Ephesians, the apostle Paul prays for the Spirit of wisdom and revelation so that they might know God better. He prays that the eyes of their heart may be enlightened to know three things about God: first, the hope to which he has called us; second, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints; and third, his incomparably great power. Paul is identifying something very important here. The problem is not that we lack the calling, or that we are not heirs of his glorious inheritance, or that we don't possess the power. These truths had been there all along, but it had been hidden to our eyes. True wisdom reposes only in knowing the Lord. God wants us to know him, not just know about him. Thus, we need to pray that God would help us understand more and more about who he is and what he has done for us.
The Last Supper is one of the most famous works of art in the world. Measuring 15 feet by 29 feet, Leonardo da Vinci painted it directly on the plaster wall of the refectory of the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan in 1495. Among the work’s admirers, King Louis XII of France, upon conquering Milan, hoped to bring home the painting with him but was frustrated because it was painted on a wall. Undeterred, Louis XII commissioned Leonardo and his studio to paint a full-scale copy of The Last Supper on multiple canvases that he can take home to France. For a while da Vinci worked at it. He started to paint Jesus Christ and Saint John – sketching the outline and applying the colors with his own inimitable genius. Then suddenly he stopped working on it. Summoning Andrea Solario, one of his best assistants, the master invited him to complete the work. The horrified student protested that he was both unworthy and unable of completing the great painting which his master had begun. But da Vinci silenced him. "Will not what I have done inspire you to do your best?"
The ascended Jesus is our source of strength and encouragement. On this day over 2,000 years ago, Jesus passed the baton of responsibility for the Kingdom of God to his followers. Will Jesus’ life not inspire us to complete the work he had begun? Ascension Sunday reminds us that we are each, individually, a part of Christ’s body. We are the arms and legs, the eyes and ears; we are limbs and organs of Christ’s present body. Jesus may no longer be here to heal the sick, touch the outcast. or feed the hungry but he commands us to take up his work and become his presence on earth. In this Holy Eucharist, let us all pray for the grace to be God's presence on earth:
you have no body now but mine.
No hands, no feet on earth but mine.
Mine are the eyes through which
you look compassion on this world.
Mine are the feet with which you walk to do good.
Mine are the hands through which you bless all the world.
Mine are the hands,
Mine are the feet,
Mine are the eyes,
I am your body.
You have no body now on earth but mine.
Amen. (Adapted from St. Teresa of Avila)
Jeff Jacinto, PhD, DHum