The Ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the Priestly life
Dearly beloved in Christ, it is already forty(40) days, after the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday, and today we celebrate the Feast of his Ascension into heaven; a unique and wonderful celebration of hope and courage to all Christians, especially in this most difficult times of Covid-19. The celebration of the Feast of Ascension affirms the Kingship of our Lord Jesus Christ and serves as the last redemptive act that confirms the participation in the divine life by all Christ’s faithful. And so we offer this short reflection to help us contemplate God’s acts of love to humanity and how we can respond to this love and the call to evangelize.
Reflecting on the kingship of Christ as a priest, who is also a King and a Prophet, the call to service remains the hallmark of the priestly life. The kingship of Christ is not that characterized by abuse of power or domineering spirit but authority to serve. And He summed it up thus, “The son of man came to serve and not to be served and to give his life as a ransom to many”(Mtt.20: 20- 28; Mk. 10: 35-45). And for us, priests and members of the body of Christ, this is the authentic way of participating in the divine life of Christ, an authentic way of being Christlike, the surest way to experiencing such transformation that Christ himself experiences today; and on the last day, a perfect and eternal life with God, where we shall see him face to face as He really is. As priests who have been called by God, even when we were not worthy(Heb. 5: 4), we should not complain when God keeps using us and we should not crow when God works through us.
When rendering services becomes a habit, when it is born out of love, the pains we encounter on the way becomes joy, they become the needed inspirations to do more. And it is only then we can truly say that there is joy in service, because we did it from our heart without any external coercion or expecting to be paid back in the future. We did it for God(Mtt. 25). Most times we act or do things because we are expecting something or some form of compensation- instead of acting, knowing that there was someone who had already done a lot for us and has called us to follow in those footsteps. Lord are you going to restore the kingdom to us? It is not about the kingdom being restored to us, not about being compensated as the disciples thought, because the Father already knows the best He will give to us. We are God’s children now but what we will be in the future has not yet been fully revealed to us (1 Jn. 3:2).
God the Father loves us so much to the extent of sacrificing his only begotten Son for us(Jn. 3:16), and He loves us gratuitously(Eph. 2: 4- 5). The love of Christ, remains a perfect example of what it means to sacrifice and serve others out of love(Jn. 13:3-5). When we love and serve our brothers and sisters, especially those who are in need, we are simply pointing to them as we reecho the declaration of St. John about Christ: Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world, just as we say at every Eucharistic Celebration(1 Jn. 4:9- 12; Jn. 1: 29).
The Feast of Ascension serves as a bridge between the Easter celebration and the Pentecost, when we shall be empowered with the Holy Spirit, the divine capacity, endurance and boldness to serve. So haven showed us the way to serve during the celebration of the paschal mystery, he will then empower us to do the same by pouring out the Holy Spirit upon us. And you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth(Acts 1: 8). And today he has commissioned us to go out to the whole world and proclaim the gospel to all. And what is the gospel, if devoid of love and service? If I cannot render selfless services as a priest, if I cannot sacrifice without counting the cost, if I cannot contribute positively to the good of the society, if I cannot positively impact on the lives of others, if I cannot live for others and make others smile, if the people cannot see me as truly another Christ, then my whole priestly calling has a very big question mark.
Our society today needs models of selfless services: Men and women with big hearts that can accommodate even the anawim on earth. We need a society where Lazarus and the rich man can feast together on the same table. With love and service, Christ was able to conquer the world and so we too can. It is rather unfortunate that we are living in a world where the glamour for power and selfishness have overcome the glamour for love, tolerance, understanding and peaceful coexistence. In this unprecedented and chaotic moment of our lives, Christ still remains the King, the author and finisher of our life and no matter what we face in life, may we do well to keep the faith alive and continue to make progress along the path of salvation. With this celebration, the three theological virtues- faith, hope and love(charity), have been fanned into flame in our lives, once again, in order for us to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. May the Lord God, through the intercession of our Blessed Virgin Mary, gives us the grace to journey with him faithfully in love and service to our brothers and sisters, being available and putting a smile on the face of the vulnerable ones. This is the gospel, this is the good news that we must all carry.
Fr. John Uduak
Fr. John is a student priest in the College. He’s studying the doctorate in Philosophy at the Pontificia Università Antonianum, in Rome