May 4, 2008
Ascension Sunday, Cycle A

First Reading: Acts 1:1-11
Psalm 47
Second Reading:
Eph. 1:17-23
Gospel: Matt. 28:16-20

Theme: Ascension: Transcending Loneliness by Embracing God's Real Presence

Our human nature detests loneliness. We detest being deserted by others, especially, by those close to our heart. Social impressions impinge upon our minds that loneliness is a disease. So now, let us consider the following scenarios: A mother with children still feels lonely and alone in her home. Society does not understand her fears, her struggles, and her upsetting moments. People compliment her as a good mother. Her husband showers her with flowers, and yet she still lives under the impression that no one really notices how tired she is. Talking to her mother does not help because her mother says, “it will all come to pass.”

Similarly, a husband may feel overwhelmed with his responsibilities in providing food, clothing and shelter for his home and family. Being overwhelmed, he feels it is not his right to burden his wife. Why? It may be simply because she too, cannot fully grasp his fears. Like the wife talking to her mother, the husband may talk to his father and friends only to be greeted with a barrage of quick-fix answers without solutions to his particular situation. He feels alone and lost.

Children between 1 and 3 years of age climb into their mother’s bed and fasten themselves to the stomach as if to re-enter into their mom’s belly again. These children act in this manner simply because apart from psychologically bonding with their mother, they cannot bear being left alone. As teenagers and adolescents enter into adulthood and maturity, they face rejection, failure and defeat at home and in the community. They are overwhelmed by a feeling of being alone. They seem frightened, agonizing that not even mom or dad appreciates or understands them.

Even as adults, married or living a single life, as widows and widowers, as incapacitated by a terminal illness that has reduced us to a hospital bed or a wheelchair, as Christians and believers – including the most prayerful and holy individuals among us – we are all afraid of loneliness. We are afraid of dying alone – plain and simple! We are afraid especially of the unknown about life after death.

Jesus knew and knows it is difficult to part away from loved ones. Jesus knew that it is not easy to say “good-bye” to dear ones. Thus, he promised the disciples – his friends and us that “he would not leave us orphaned” [cf. Jn. 14:18]; that “he would send us another advocate to be with us” [cf. Jn. 14:16]. Jesus knew it hurt to be alone and deserted by all; to be denied by the presence of loved ones or those who care, and so while dying on the Cross, Jesus cried out for God’s Presence in a loud voice, “Eloi! Eloi! lama sabachthani” – “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” [cf. Mk. 16:34].

Therefore, Jesus’ ascension narratives depict God’s answer to loneliness. It affords us the opportunity to transcend loneliness through the Spirit that Jesus would send to enable us reclaim God’s Presence in our life. In these narratives, Jesus assures us that we can transform the self so that God may put all things under our feet; and again, as Jesus, we too, by God’s grace, might make all things possible for others. Jesus came to make all things possible for us who believe. We can also make all things possible for those in dire need of our assistance. We may wonder where we should go in order for us to transcend our loneliness. We may ask, “Do we have to follow the message of Mary Magdalene and be on the road to Galilee? Should we travel to Mount Sinai as when Moses received The Dacalogue – The Ten Words, The Ten Commandments? Should we set foot on Mount Horeb as did Elijah?”

No, we do not have to do any of these, for back then with the disciples and with us today, Jesus gave us an assuring comfort “to know that he is with us always until the end of time” [cf. Matt. 28:20]. May our faith and belief in this Eucharist encourage us “to go out into the whole world as proclaimers” [cf. Mk. 16:15] and “witnesses to Jesus’ mission of love and friendship to every person at every corner of the earth” [cf. Acts 1:8]. Let us depend upon God’s own grace now, so that we may transcend loneliness and replace it with God’s own Presence!

Father John-Baptist Okai
Priest Moderator
St. Cecilia Parish, Regina SK Canada

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