I didn’t write a message for the Fifth Sunday of Easter and Sixth Sunday of Easter. In fact, for the Fifth Sunday of Easter, I just celebrated the mass with Fr. Jefri and Fr. Gilbert. I thought it would be good to take a break. I am sure our parishioners also would want to hear a homily from Fr. Jefri. I was all prepared to write the message for the Sixth Sunday of Easter when some unforeseen circumstances happened. I ended up not doing anything with my computer last week. Just for your information, Fr. Jefri is still with us. So, I assigned him to celebrate the 12.00 pm Sunday Mass of the Ascension of the Lord in place of Fr. Gilbert. He is supposed to go back to University of Santo Tomas, Manila for his thesis defense by the end of this month. However, because of the COVID19 pandemic, his Dean of study decided to have a “teleconference thesis defense” instead. Basically, it means that Fr. Jefri wouldn’t have to be physically present before his thesis panelists to do his defense. I was saying jokingly that once Fr. Jefri has completed his licentiate in Canon Law, I could consider an early retirement.
Speaking about retirement, Dr George McHenry once said that “Retirement is not an end, but rather a new beginning, an opportunity for growth, creativity, and the discovery of one’s authentic self.” If you are retired or about to reach a retirement age or might be retiring for one reason or another, I suggest for you to ponder upon Dr. McHenry’s words. As a matter of fact, many people are not so keen to retire. The late Fr. Tobias Chi was one of them. I remember him telling me when I was then a seminarian that when a priest retires, he would be like the books on a bookshelf which are more like decoration because they are rarely being read. That, I supposed, explain why Fr. Chi chose to remain active in his ministry as a diocesan priest until he died at the age of 86 in 2010. Dr McHenry obviously has a different perspective.
The word “retire” comes from French retiré (/rəˈtɪəreɪ/) which means “drawn back”. Looking at the context of the celebration this Sunday, the Ascension of the Lord is, in a way, a “retirement” of Jesus from being physically present with his disciples in his earthly ministry. However, to cite Dr Mc Henry, “it is not an end, but rather a new beginning” for the disciples of Jesus. He promised his little band the Holy Spirit to sustain them to continue his works on earth. Jesus’ ascension to heaven brought about the “opportunity” for growth – the Good News was proclaimed not just among the Jewish but to every nation. His ascension to heaven had allowed creativity for the disciples to unfold the mystery of salvation to the people – for instance, the liturgy of the Eucharist. His disciples also eventually discovered their authentic selves – they understood that Jesus had gone ahead of them to the place (heaven) where one day they too will follow him.
Two elements are important for us to understand as we celebrate this Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord.  It reminds us to look continuously into heaven – we must fix our eyes on Jesus who is now sitting at the right hand of the Father. We cannot NOT look at him, or else we will be easily swept away by the rough currents of the world.  It recalls our own calling – we are to be like the disciples of Jesus who after the ascension of the Lord “went forth and preached everywhere”. Now that Jesus is no longer present physically here on earth, we are called to continue his mission. We are given the mandate “to go to the end of the world and proclaim the Good News of the Lord”.
As we celebrate the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, I would like to highlight some events that happened in past last few weeks in our parish:
Finally, I would to urge everyone to continue to be patient in expectant of the normal Sunday Mass Celebration. We are still not sure when Sunday Masses could be back to normal. In the meantime, please join the available online masses.