Fr. Serg Kabamalan, CJM
When we miss a beloved whom we have not seen for a long time, and will probably not see again in this life, we try to recapture that person’s presence and savor it through the memories that fill our hearts. We visit the places replete with wonderful memories of that person. We linger in the bedroom where that person used to stay. We touch or embrace the things that use to belong to him/her. We try to remember the words that were uttered and the things that were done. We fill the emptiness of his/her absence with whatever we can grab.
That was probably the experience that the apostles had as they saw Jesus ascending into heaven until he was out of sight. Perhaps, they stood transfixed looking up to get one more glimpse of the Lord and savor it in their hearts. (Cf. 1st reading, Acts 1:1-11.)
It was at that moment that two men in white garments stood beside them and addressed them, calling them back to the here and now. It was not enough to be awed and taken by the reality of Jesus’ ascension and communion with the Father as he ended his earthly sojourn. The two men revealed that Jesus will be coming back much in the same way. Meanwhile, the “in-between” time had begun. The apostles had to turn their eyes back to the world that needs Jesus’ presence through their mediation by acting on the words of Jesus captured in Acts 1:8 (you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth), and in today’s Gospel, Mk 15:16ff (Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature). His departure and physical absence called them forth to step up to continue what he had inaugurated. Their mouths had to be the mouth of Jesus; their hands had to be his hands! Their very existence had to communicate the continuing presence of the Christ to all!
We participate in this as well! We stand with the apostles gazing heavenward. We are one with them as they received the promise of his return. We are also being sent like the apostles to be part of the work of Jesus, shaped by the needs and particularities of our time.
What manner and mode of witnessing are we to engage in to make the mission of Christ effective? How will our own corners of the world be transformed when our participation in the mission becomes more genuine and concrete?
Lord Jesus, give us the grace of your abiding presence in our midst that we may be inspired to be your witnesses within our sphere of control and influence, and to the limits of our giftedness. But when our own abilities fail us, be our strength, endurance and patience that we may continue to communicate your love and mercy to all. Amen.