The goal of Biblical exegesis is to explore the meaning of the text which then leads to discovering its significance or relevance. Applying exegesis should make our reflection on the readings of the Sunday Liturgy more fruitful and helpful.
Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.
THE ASCENSION ACCORDING TO ACTS
ascension took place 40 days after the Resurrection. During that time
Jesus through his appearances proved that he was alive. He instructed
his apostles about the Kingdom and told them to wait in Jerusalem for
the coming of the Holy Spirit. When he comes, they will become his
witnesses, first in Jerusalem, then in Palestine, and finally to the
ends of the earth. Even after instructing them for 40 days, they still
did not understand Jesus and his mission. For if they understood, they
would not ask: “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom
to Israel?” Until now they were still thinking of Jesus and the Kingdom
in terms of earthly power. The ascension is described as Jesus rising
towards heaven and then being hidden by the clouds. Two men in white
garments (angels) tell the disciples that the Parousia (return of Jesus)
will happen in the same way.
In the Acts of the Apostles it seems that the ascension took place somewhere in the vicinity of Jerusalem.
“Trabaho lang ito. Walang personalan.” We’ve
probably heard this many times in the work place. It is meant to remind colleagues
not to take criticism personally—something that we Filipinos are often guilty
of. This may be alright in professional
relationships but not at home nor with friends. There our relationships must be
With Jesus what is our relationship?
Professional or personal? Close or distant? The Gospel uses the image of the vine
and branches to describes the relationship between Jesus and his followers.
This relationship is certainly a personal relationship. For what should bind us
to Jesus is love and love cannot be anything but personal. That is why when
friends or family go out together for some activity, they call it “bonding”, a
strengthening of the love relationship among them.
This Sunday let us look at the love that
binds us to Jesus and to people we care about.
First, we must love in deeds. As they say,
love is not a noun but a verb. A verb, remember, is defined as an action word. Thus,
love must be expressed in action, in deeds. When love is expressed in deeds, love is
felt and therefore, love becomes real. I suggest two ways to express love in
deeds: through presence and through presents.
Do you remember a Christmas advertisement
of Coca-Cola? It was called “Coca-Cola Where Will Happiness Strike Next: The
OFW Project.” It presented three OFWs who had not able to visit their families
here in the Philippines for many years. One was an X-ray technologist who hasn’t
been home for 5 years. Instead of buying a plane ticket to return home, he just
sends the money for the hospital expenses of his father. A baby-sitter hasn’t
been home for 11 years! When he left his youngest son was only 1 year old.
Another had been away for 9 years. What Coke did was to make it possible for
them to come home. In each and every case, you could feel the love that their
presence evoked. I was especially touched by two scenes. The first was when the
X-ray technologist hugged his old father whose vision was failing. He said that
eventually his father would go blind but he wanted his father to see him before
he loses his sight. The other scene was when the father met his now 12 year old
son and hugged him for the first time. These OFWs left home and were absent for
years for the sake of their families, because they loved them. But now they
were present in their families even for a few weeks but their presence made it
possible for them to feel each other’s love.
We express our love through our presence.
But we also express it through our presents.
It was the wedding anniversary of Joey and
Ana. Joey told Ana that they would celebrate their wedding anniversary at Spiral
Buffet at Sofitel Hotel. It was quite an expensive restaurant. Ana enjoyed
their evening together. Going home, she asked her husband why he chose to bring
her to Spiral Buffet. He said that a month earlier, while reading the papers,
she casually said that she would love to try that restaurant. He heard it and
kept it in mind. In this particular case, Joey did not only express his love
through the present of a dinner at Spiral but also through the present of an
attentive ear to the desires of one’s spouse.
I must also add that by presents, I do not
only mean gifts but things that are given for the good and happiness of those
we love. Food, clothing, shelter, education are examples of such presents.
While giving importance to deeds in order
to express love, we must not minimize the value of words. Have you ever told
your parents “I love you”? I used to give my students this homework when we would
take up the Fourth Commandment (Honor your Father and your Mother): Say “I love
you” to your mom or you dad. Next meeting tell me how they reacted.” Inevitably
there will be those who will report that their mom burst into tears upon
hearing them say: “Mama, I love you.” Did you ever tell your son or daughter
that you are so happy to have them as your son or your daughter? And if you
want to double the impact of your words, hug them.
I am saving our relationship with Jesus and
with God for last.
Loving God is not that simple. God may touch
our hearts and find ourselves loving him spontaneously. But for some it might
be a matter of learning to love him because we can't see him, hear him, nor
touch him. How do we learn to love God? Or to put it another way, how do we let
love for God develop? Because we are human beings, love develops and grows in
the same way—by taking the time to be present to one another. The story of the
Little Prince and the Fox exemplifies this process. The fox tells the Little
Prince to tame him. Taming him means “making friends” or “establishing a
relationship”. The Little Prince asks the fox how to do this. And fox replies, “First
you will sit down at a little distance from me--like that--in the grass. I
shall look at you out of the corner of my eye, and you will say nothing. But
you will sit a little closer to me, every day . . ." Friendships and love
relationships among human beings develop that way—by taking time to be present
to one another. If we apply this to our relationship with God, it means taking
time to be alone with God in prayer.
I think I should end by saying something
about God’s love for us. God loves us not because we are good. God loves us
whether we are good or bad, just as our parents love us whether we are good or
bad. God loves us because we are his, just as our parents love us because we
are theirs. A father would boast about his son who plays in the varsity and
say: “That's my boy!” A mother would say: “Yang si Teresa ko palaging nasa top
ten.” Through baptism God has made us his own. We belong to him. We are his
sons and daughters. He has become our Father. But the question remains: “Are we
close to him?”