I've been thinking about my own mom in relation to our Scripture readings. This Easter Season I'm doing a Bible study based on the daily reading from the Acts of the Apostles. Acts picks up where the the Gospel of Luke leaves off, that is, the Ascension of Jesus. The Ascension caps off Jesus' work on earth and begins a new stage. As we see next weekend - the Age of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus prepared his disciples for the Ascension: Grief fills your heart, he says, because I am going where you cannot go now. Separation brings sadness. We've seen it this year with Sr. Barbara's death on February 4, then the April anniversary of Fr. Valencia. And of course the death of others in our parish and our families. Separation causes sadness and makes this life a valley of tears.
Stop me if I seem too melancholy. :) I want to face the bad news before giving you good news. The bad news is separation and the loneliness that follows. I saw this in my mom.
One night we were driving back home, just the two of us in the car. We were kind of quiet then Ma asked, "Do you think we will recognize each other in the next life?"
"Oh, yes," I said. I was about to explain that the recognition would not be easy because no one can take his false self into the heaven (it would wreck the place).
Before I could give my theory, Ma said, "I miss my mother." Grandma Perich had died over 40 years earlier and my mom still ached to see her again. That desire seems to grow over time. I miss my mom and dad and the loneliness increases. Something similar happens with Sister Barbara and Father Valencia.
A distance exists between human beings and death makes that gap seem final, unbridgeable. As much as I loved my parents, there are major parts of their lives I never knew. When I went to Poland for World Youth Day, I thought about my mom and dad - how they were in their 20's when the dramatic events of World War II unfolded. What did those battles and concentration camps mean to them when they were starting a farm and a family? I know little about that part of their lives and they know little about parts of my life. A gap exists between us.
And sometimes a gap exists between us and Jesus. We experience depression, guilt, fear, distance. We sometimes want to hide. That's the bad news.
But this Sunday as we celebrate the Ascension I have some good news. Jesus has bridged the gap. St. Paul says that the Ascension means that Jesus first had to descend - to the lowest parts. He knows our misery and anguish; he also knows our joys and hopes. By his Ascension Jesus bridges the gap. St. Augustine says where the head is there also is the body. We are with Jesus; he is with us. He gives us, as we shall see, a great gift - in fact the greatest gift, the Holy Spirit.
Jesus has bridged the gap not only between us and him but among each other. Only through him can we connect with deceased loved ones. Jesus is the Way, the one Way the only Way. I do want to know, to really know, my mom & dad, Sister Barbara and Fr. Valencia. For sure some of it won't be easy. That's why we have purgatory. But Jesus bridges the gap; he is the way. As a token Jesus gives a lovely gift - he own mother. Behold your mother, he says. With love for our earthly moms and for the Blessed Mother conclude with a poem to Mary. It's by the Filipino patriot Dr. José Rizal:
To The Virgin Mary Mary,
Sweet peace, solace dear
Of pained mortal!
Thou art the fount
Whence emanates the healing stream,
That makes our soil fruitful... Thou art my Mother,
Mary, pure; Thou'll be the fortress of my life;
Thou'll be my guide on this angry sea.
If ferociously vice pursues me,
If in my pains death harasses me,
Help me, and drive away my woes! Amen