ONE OF the most striking memes that I’ve been receiving lately has to do with the feast we celebrate today. It says, “To those who wonder what Ascension is about, it is the day when Jesus started to work from home.”
Since we Christians profess faith in the God who camedown on earth and became man in Jesus Christ, we also profess faith in the humanity that was lifted up to heaven through the same Jesus Christ, the day he was ascended into heaven. And it is this ascension that makes it possible for him to “work from home.”
But first let us make a few things clear. What work are we referring to? The work God has been busy with, with regard to humanity and the world, which we call salvation. Namely, his desire to unite humanity and to heal the wounded world.
But God could not do that from home. For love of us, He had to come down, to humble himself to unite his divinity with our humanity. God had to descend and empty himself, suffer alienation in this world and even death, in order to reestablish our connectivity with him, which is constantly being destroyed by sin and the prevalence of evil.
In simple language, he wanted us to learn to work from home ourselves. But how could we do that if we destroy our home? How can we build home if our relationship with each other and our fellow creatures in this earth, our common home, is broken? If we get alienated from each other? How can we live life “on earth as it is in heaven” if we get disconnected from each other? Evil has so seduced us to make our lives “on earth as it is in hell.”
We cannot work from home ourselves if we do not even know anymore how to build a home, how to care, respect, forgive, how to share each other’s joys and feel each other’s pains, how to nurture communion and build community and how to transcend the barriers that keep us apart?
He descended so that we could ascend. Ascension is not about His divinity; it is about our humanity. Divinity has no need of being lifted up. In principle, because Christ is God, his ascension is just a return, a mere homecoming. But because God became human in Jesus, his ascension is a lifting up for our humanity. Because he united his divinity with our humanity, he brought with him our humanity and raised it up. Meaning, he has succeeded in establishing a full connectivity. Because of ascension we are able to say as St. Paul did, “Nothing anymore can disconnect us from the love of God, because of Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Next Sunday, we will be celebrating the effect of Ascension: Pentecost. The connection of God with the world and with us is now made fully possible through the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church. It is however still a work in progress.
Last week, I had a teleconference meeting with our school directors and administrators in our Catholic schools in the diocese. One of the principals made a presentation about the preparations that they have been doing for the reopening of a new school year by August, following what he called the Department of Education’s recommendations for a “Hybrid Learning”: meaning, a combination of online learning and physical attendance, depending on their assessment of their students’ internet connectivity. Their assessment determined three types of connectivity on the basis of access to internet: full access, low access, and no-access.
You see, this pandemic crisis is now temporarily pressuring us to recreate our connectivity in virtual and digital forms. We are doing it too with our meetings, our conferences, our recollections, our worship, education, social services, and all other ministries. I don’t call it a new normal. It is our way of coping with an abnormal situation.
This is why I dedicated this Mass for one ministry that is now serving all the ministries of the Church: our social communication ministry. Like I said, Ascension Sunday is also called World Communication Sunday. They are now doing much of the frontliner’s work in the Church, and many of them are young people. Theyare now our lifeline. Thanks to their ministry, we are able to reach you and you are able to get in touch with us. We are still able to celebrate virtually, and unite ourselves spiritually.
Jesus says in the Gospel, “I will be with you always until the end of time.” Isn’t that ironic? How can he say that on the day itself that he left us in order to be ascended into heaven? That is the paradox of it all. He had to be absent in order to be more fully present with us. Now, our mission is made possible. He says, “Baptize them…” meaning, connect them to the life of the divine family, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Our connectivity can range from full to low; but in Jesus, it will never be a No-Connectivity because he promised to be with us always. Jesus works from home but remains very much in touch. All we need is to remain connected through constant prayer and through the faith, hope and love that unites us with one another and with him. This is how he teaches us to work from home ourselves.
I hear that lately, many people are deciding to go back home to the provinces, with a little help from the government called BALIK PROBINSIYA, since many people in the city who are local migrants have lost their jobs. Who knows, this return might heal a lot of things. So many people have been led to migrate, whether locally or abroad, separated from home, from roots, from province or country, from loved ones, just to be able to provide. Now this pandemic is causing us to rethink the wisdom of the global pattern of working away from home that has destroyed a lot of homes.
Let us hope and pray that this crisis will lead to the rebuilding of many homes, the renewal and healing of many lives, the reuniting of many separated families, the empowerment to work from home. Let us hope and pray that the new normal that we are trying to build, will lead, not to a regression but to an ascension, a lifting up, and a greater connectivity to one another and to God, through our most powerful online connection: Jesus Christ our Lord.
(Homily for Ascension Sunday, 24 May 2020, Mat 28:16-20)