Solemnity of the Ascension. June 1st, 2014.
Acts 1:1-11; Eph 1:17-23; Mt 28:16-20
Waiting for God to act
“He appeared to them during forty days.”
In one of my preliminary interviews with our Vocation Director before I joined the religious community, I asked him, “How long will it take for me to go through the formation process and become a religious priest in the Oblates of the Virgin Mary?” He replied, “If you have a College degree, it will take a minimum of 8 years.” I was surprised and replied, “That’s a pretty long time. Can I get a fewer number of years for my formation, maybe six or seven years?” When he did not seem to budge on the stipulated eight years, I tried one last pitch, “You know I only want to be a religious priest and not a bishop.” He laughed out loud and said, “It is still eight years of formation.” I surrendered and accepted the deal.
I had a desire to do the will of God and yet wanted to stick to my own timetable. I was hesitating to go through the entire waiting period to give God a chance to act, to form and prepare me for the vocation that He is calling me to. Reflecting now on my years of formation, I have realized that each of those eight years brought its own challenges and graces. I thank God for each of them now because they have all played a role in shaping who I am today. Honestly, I am still learning to wait on God’s action now.
There are two things that marked the life of Jesus Christ here on earth. The first one is His complete dedication to the Father’s will throughout His life from the moment of His Incarnation in the womb of the Virgin Mary: “I must be about my Father’s business.” Secondly, Jesus waited for His Father to act. He waited during the thirty days of His hidden life in Nazareth, in His years of public ministry, and in the days of His Passion and death. In His humanity, we can rightly say that Jesus Christ waited for His Father to raise Him from the dead after three days in the tomb. His wait for His Father to act was not in vain.
Today’s First Reading on the Solemnity of the Ascension of our Lord tells us that Jesus “presented Himself alive to them (His disciples) by many proofs after He had suffered, appearing to them during forty days.” After accomplishing the mission for which He was sent by the Father, laying down His life for us on the Cross and rising from the grave, He spent forty days with His disciples. What do we glean from this example of our blessed Lord? He was waiting to be “taken up” by His Father who had “raised Him from the dead on the third day.”(Acts 10:40; 13:30) Those forty days was a period of waiting for the Father to act once again after a lifetime of being faithful to the Father’s will.
In a similar way, for us to enter heaven, we must do what Christ has done and with the same attitude. Firstly, we must do the will of God always. Doing the will of God is indispensable for those who want to enter heaven: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Mt 7:21) Secondly, we must be willing to wait for God to act.
Jesus also demands that we His disciples follow in His own footsteps and wait for the Father to act after we have done His holy will with the help of His grace. After they had followed Him for over three years and experienced His Resurrection, Jesus told His disciples to wait in Jerusalem for God to act and send them the Holy Spirit: “He enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the ‘promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak.’” The disciples exhibit their impatience by asking, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” They want to know when God will act. Jesus does not tell them when God will act but He tells them that they are to bear witness to Him patiently with the power of the Holy Spirit. The message is clear – they are to act on the divine will and await the divine intervention.
St. Paul also reminds us in the Second Reading of “the riches of glory in His inheritance among the holy ones and the surpassing greatness of His power for us who believe.” Our vocation is to become saints. The power we need to respond to this vocation is not in us or in anybody else but it is that same power that God showed “by raising Him (Christ) from the dead and seating Him at His right hand in the heavens, far above every principality, authority, power and dominion, and every name that is named not only in this age but also in the one to come.” Apart from moving us to achieve His divine will, this divine power is also an assurance to us that our wait for God to act will not be in vain.
My dear brothers and sisters, we must be willing to wait for God to act even as we have been empowered to do His will. How many times have we given up on prayer because we cannot wait for God to act? How many temptations have we succumbed to because we are reluctant to wait for God to act? How many opportunities to bring hope to others have we missed because we hold on to our own timetables? How easy it is for us to get discouraged because of our failure to wait on God to act? We suffer without spiritual fruit in our lives because of this reluctance to wait for God’s intervention in our pains. Ultimately, we risk losing out on our vocation to become saints if we do not learn to wait for God’s intervention.
As we encounter Jesus Christ in this Eucharist, He repeats His words to us that we read in today’s Gospel: “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” As if that is not enough good news to our troubled hearts, He adds, “I am with you always, until the end of this age.” We have access to His power always for fidelity to the divine will, we are sustained by this power in our wait for God to act, and we have a divine assurance that God will act in our lives as He did in the life of His Son Jesus Christ.
May Our Mother Mary, the Help of Christians, teach us how to open our hearts to God’s powerful grace and do His will while waiting for Him to act. She waited for God to act in those dark moments under the Cross as Christ Jesus drew His last breaths. May she teach us and help us to always wait with confidence for God to act after being faithful to His will. Our wait will never in vain. God will surely act and make us the saints that we are called to be.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!