MANILA, Philippines – SOME years ago, flushed from a successful flight to outer space, a Russian cosmonaut sarcastically remarked: “We’ve gone up to heaven, but we did not find God there.”
Obviously, the Russian cosmonaut, whose world view is purely materialistic, was speaking merely on the level of the physical and material.
This Sunday we celebrate the feast of Jesus’ ASCENSION. His Acension means not just a “space travel” but that Christ entered into a new dimension, an unseen but definitive presence which is the spiritual or immaterial.
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His Ascension was not a separation. Neither was it some kind of a “retirement from public service” after accomplishing His mission. Rather it signified His exaltation as universal sovereign Lord of heaven after a fruitful life on earth.
Jesus Himself described His return to the Father as an “ascending movement” which began in humiliation and suffering and ended in His glorification. “Did not the Christ have to suffer… before entering into His glory?” (Lk 24:26).
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In the Ascension episode, the Acts of the Apostles records Jesus telling His disciples “you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem…and to the ends of the earth.”
The story is told about an American army chaplain who had just preached a homily at a Mass for American servicemen in a cathedral in Europe. The theme of the homily was: “Be proud of your Catholic faith; don’t be ashamed to practice it in public.”
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After the Mass, a sailor, obviously moved by the homily, approached the chaplain and asked to go to confession. The chaplain agreed and the sailor knelt down right on the sidewalk in front of the cathedral. “Never mind kneeling,” said the chaplain. “People will be staring at us.”
“The heck with them, Father,” the sailor said. “Didn’t you say, ‘Don’t be afraid to practice your faith in public?’”
The sailor’s spirit of witness might be exaggerated but he surely knew how to practice it.
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Jesus’ command to be witnesses means we proclaim and give evidence of His teachings and works. And this includes all of us by reason of our baptism and confirmation.
The question is: How can followers of Christ witness about Jesus in today’s world? The feast of Ascension is World’s Day of Social Communications in the Catholic Church. People in mass media who, directly or indirectly, promote the Christian values of peace, justice, and love, witness Christ in their profession.
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But there’s another way to carry out the commission of Jesus. It’s to become witnesses and evangelizers in our homes, our work places, and every place. We do this by giving testimony of Christian life by our good works and edifying examples.
For instance, we witness to Jesus by our patience when others annoy us, by our forgiveness when others wrong us, by our fidelity in an environment of unfaithful couples, by our honesty in our workplaces when others are dishonest.
May the feast of the Ascension remind us of the mission entrusted to us by the Lord to spread the Good News of salvation by words and deeds, wherever and whoever we are.
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FAMILY TV MASS – is aired on IBC 13 at 7 a.m. every Sunday and on GMA Pinoy TV International. Sponsor: St. Anthony de Padua Shrine, Bustillos, Sampaloc, Manila. Celebrant: Fr. Cielo Almazan, OFM.