June 23, 2024

Ascension Sunday and Pentecost Sunday are movements of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, respectively. Jesus ascends into heaven and the Holy Spirit descends to earth.
We try to understand Ascension in the Book of Acts 1:1-11: “He presented Himself alive to them by many proofs after He had suffered, appearing to them during 40 days and speaking about the kingdom of God.”
Forty days was mentioned again after the 40 days and 40 nights that Jesus prayed and fasted in the desert. Forty days after resurrection however, Jesus stayed with His apostles, speaking to them about the kingdom of God. During the 40 days, Jesus had been appearing and living with the apostles not as a ghost but the Risen Jesus.
This is the biblical background of our cultural practice. Forty days after the burial of the dead, families and friends gather for a mass and a meal after.
The 40 days among the Bontocs is also believed that the soul of the dead is still with the bereaved family. Hence, the atang (offering) is observed. But when the atang is gone, it is not the soul that ate it. It might be the cat or somebody at home hungry. Philosophy dictates that the intangible cannot touch the tangible. Only Jesus was able to eat. He was not a ghost but the Risen Jesus. He proved that He was not a ghost by asking something to eat. The ghost cannot eat.
The Acts of the Apostles explained ascension in its most literal sense. “When He had said this, as they were looking on, He was lifted up, and a cloud took Him from their sight. This Jesus who was taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen Him going to heaven.”
The ascension of Jesus is a mystery just like His resurrection. Since it is a mystery, we cannot fully grasp and explain.
The Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians 1:17-23 narrates, “Brothers and sisters: May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Glory, give you the spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in the knowledge of Him. May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones.”
It is difficult to understand even an inch of the mystery, hence we need the Holy Spirit and his gifts to aid us. Jesus goes back to the Father but Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit to His apostles to be brave in the mission and to understand. With the Holy Spirit, all the difficult aspects of life will be given light. Thus, even the difficulties encountered by the Apostles were given a better meaning and cleared direction.
The mystery of faith can apply well in our pandemic life today. The direction of the enhanced and general community quarantine lies on the leadership of our government leaders. Wiser planning, effective decision-making, and efficient implementation cannot take place in human capacity alone. It succeeds if the Holy Spirit is invoked. Hence, leaders, especially the President and local chief executives, must learn to ponder, pray, and listen to the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit, everything is bound to fail. We as well must pray for our government leaders.
I remember four mayors who asked for prayers and who trusted that prayers are powerful – Mayors Benjamin Magalong of Baguio City, Johnson Bantog III of Besao, James Pooten of Sagada, and Franklin Odsey of Bontoc, all in Mountain Province.
Jesus revealed Himself again and commanded the apostles. (Matthew 28:16-20) “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.”
As Christians, we are morally and spiritually mandated to do the same by virtue of our baptism. The ECQ and GCQ provide us ample time to do these commands in our families. Pope Francis underlined the bigger essence of the family as a domestic church in these trying moments, the pandemic life.
Jesus declared the promise, “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of time.” Having seen and experienced the chaos, doubts, confusions, and uncertainty of life brought by the Covid-19, our faith must continue to remind us that God is in-charge of everything. Jesus proved it by his resurrection that overcame death and dispelled darkness.
Today, we celebrate Pentecost Sunday. We are again reminded of God’s presence through the Holy Spirit. We are again reminded that in every difficulty, we make use of it to purify our life and to undergo constant conversion. We must be reminded that we need the Holy Spirit for our sanctification and mission.
Pentecost Sunday is the birth of the church. It is therefore our birthday as a church on this Sunday. It marks as well the end of Easter Season.
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