“Habilin” by Fr. Joel

“Repentance and forgiveness in his name would be proclaimed to all the nations. You shall be witnesses to this. I will send you what my Father promised. “(v.47-49)

After graduating from high school in Samar, I was determined to pursue my theological studies and readied myself to enter the diocesan seminary in our place. Since my Dad didn’t like me to pursue my dream as a priest, he encouraged me to enroll in a pre-law course in Manila. He was the one who accompanied me, making sure that I would not be going somewhere else. The night before we left, I very well remember my Mom telling me only one thing: “You will always be in my prayers. Let God do the rest for you!” This has always been my Mom’s reminder to me.

Ascension Day is a time given to the faithful to reflect on the very inspiration left by Jesus to his disciples. It is the best time of the year to reflect as well on the missions of our Church and the very inspiration attached to it – the role of the Scriptures or the words of Jesus, and the importance of worship in fulfilling the missions entrusted to us by Jesus.

What was the advice received by the disciples before he finally was ascended into heaven? “Repentance and forgiveness in his name would be proclaimed to all the nations. You shall be witnesses to this. I will send you what my Father promised. “(v.47-49) This is Jesus’ commissioning to his disciples urging them to go first to Jerusalem, and wait because because something would happen there. They followed him, and returned to the Temple in Jerusalem, the place of worship, their place of waiting.

Biblical scholars believe that the antecedent of “you” in the context of the gospel refers to either “the disciples”, “the Jewish community”, or to a broader community including ourselves. We are all encouraged not to be mere participants in a stage drama unfolding in our midst but to be active protagonists able to fulfill our roles.

Have you noticed the holy intent of Jesus? It is part of God’s plan that His intention will be completed and the divine strategy will work. This is the reason why one of the repeated themes in the context of this gospel is the understanding of the Messiah and His destiny. It is his valued mission that justicethat justice and peace may reign in humankind so much so that the Kingdom can be inaugurated. This started when they came to realize and recognize Jesus when he opened their hearts and minds about the many things he had told them, and the numerous advice he gave them.

The last part of the narrative tells us that instead of experiencing the so called “separation anxiety”, we are told that they experienced the joy of Jesus’ ascension. It was coming from the blessing given by Jesus himself (v.51). This moved them to worship him and He was their inspiration and the reason why they frequented the Temple, giving praises to God. It is in this context that we affirm the presence of God in the Holy Eucharist. We pattern our worship on this spiritual experience of the disciples. We sing hymns, recite our prayers as one community, expose the Word of God, share the holy inspiration of the Word, break and share the bread together because this was what our forefathers in faith had done. But while practicing all these, a faithful follower of Christ should not neglect the true value of being a good witness. And a good witness shows an evident presence of Christ in everything that he/she does. Likewise, a good missionary is one who possesses a virtue.

The way the mothers care for their children is one evident sign of being a true disciple of Jesus. Mama Mary championed this. Let us pray as we celebrate Mothers’ Day this Sunday, that we honor our mothers for showing us the way to become a true follower of Christ through their unblemished dedication and service to us. What is the best inheritance/advice or inspiration that we can keep in our hearts coming from our parents? It is no other than to witness the Gospel or Kingdom values that they have lived by and deeply nurtured in us. Let our lives be possessed by the same.