Fr. Serg Kabamalan, CJM
Garbed in plain collarless shirt and denim pants, I was accosted and grilled sternly by the security guard regarding my business for coming before I was allowed to enter a prestigious business enclave in Makati City. That happened many years ago. I did not think much about it, but looking back I realized that I was treated like a suspected criminal or terrorist. It is interesting to note though how things changed on another occasion, just a few days later. I went back to the same place for a more formal meeting. I was in business attire instead of casual or sporty get up that I prefer. This time, the security guard smiled and was very courteous. He just let me in without any question. That was a stark change which I can only attribute to power dressing!
Indeed, in the traditional business world, the way one dresses up speaks a lot about one’s positioning in terms of control and authority. Dress up smartly, and carry it with confidence, you will surely get to the first base, i.e., get people’s attention and get them to listen. It is like saying, “I am somebody. I have something important to do and say. I make things happen. I influence things. So, listen to me!” In other words, one dresses up to get what he or she wants. In the realm of what is lasting, however, power dressing goes beyond the physical and the human, which is superficial, to say the least, and, at its best, only psychological. It means putting on the “armor of God” by drawing strength from God and from his mighty power to face headlong the challenges of standing by Christ (cf. Eph 6:10ff).
Today, as we celebrate the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, we hang on to the last words of Jesus before he went to take his rightful place beside the Father, “Stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” Jesus’ parting words used the metaphor of wearing clothes to underline the reality that the power that he will send through the Holy Spirit emanates from and belongs to God. It is power dressing in its best form. The disciples were to exercise this power on behalf of God, for God and for all that God calls. It is an encouragement and a promise that God is in control, and the disciples were to participate in the further unfolding of God’s power in the economy of salvation to be his witnesses from Jerusalem to all of Judea, onto Samaria, and to the ends of the world.
Indeed, the disciples were emboldened. For them to stay in the City of David was tantamount to risking provocation of the dominant, reactionary forces of the Jewish religious leaders, the very power block that sent Jesus to his passion and death. With great joy and seeming indifference to the unnerving clout of the establishment, they even continuously stayed in the Temple praising God after the Ascension. It was like staring at the enemy in the eye and not yielding an inch.
Remember though that the power from on high was yet to come. The promise was already sufficient to drive all their fears away and to allow them focus on God and his unfailing action. It prepared them to receive the clothing of God’s power, giving an added impetus to live their new identity in Christ. It was clear to them, however, that it is only a participation in the power of love, not meant to control, dominate and subdue but to liberate, save and empower others.
Today, as the country prepares to elect a new set of national and local leaders may this power from on high clothe everyone to enable every voter to choose the path of liberation, salvation and empowerment.
God, our Father, send forth your Spirit anew to clothe us with the power of your love that grounded in the reality of our weaknesses and limitations, we may wield the power to change the world by loving and life-giving actions through Christ, our Lord. Amen.