Goodbyes in the Ascension

24 May 2009. Solemnity of the Ascension of Our Lord
Acts 1, 1-11; Psalm 47; Eph 1, 17-23; Mark 16, 15-20

The Solemnity of the Ascension of Our Lord places the role of goodbyes in our lives. It is the culmination of the Lord’s mission on earth, but at the same time, it is the beginning of ministry for the disciples. There is a song called, “Song of Goodbye” (Awit ng Pamamaalam) by Jimmy Hofileña and Achoot Cuyegkeng. I like the song because it tells us of the mystery of goodbyes (As in all translations, the Filipino will lose some meaning when translated to English).

Ibigin man nating pigilin ang paglubog ng araw, (We might wish to stop the setting of the sun)
Ang marahang pagkain sa pisngi ng buwan, (Or the slow setting of the moon)
May mga bagay na ‘di matanto at hindi mapigilan. (There are things we cannot stop and understand)

Ibigin man nating yakapin ang lawak ng dagat, (We might wish to embrace the vastness of the sea)
At sadyang hulihin ang pagkurap ng tala, (And catch the twinkle of the stars)
May mga bagay na ‘di mahuli at hindi masansala. (There are things we cannot grasp nor hold)

Ngunit kahit ako’y lumayo, huwag ka sanang malungkot (But even if I go, don’t be sad)
Taglay mo pa rin ang aking pag-ibig sa iyong puso. (You have my love in your heart)

Ibigin man nating abutin ang dulo ng langit, (We might wish to reach for the end of the sky)
At ating habulin ang talim ng kidlat (And catch the tip of the lightning bolt)
May mga bagay na di mahabol, (There are things that cannot be achieved)
Laging isang hiwaga. (It will always remain a mystery)

Many of us have experienced goodbyes in our lives. The feeling is exactly what the song says. And how we try avoid goodbyes, but we all know that goodbyes will always be part of our lives. This is what Jesus experienced when He said goodbye to His disciples. And this is also a universal experience. There are different ways to say goodbye all over the world, and each word emphasizes a different aspect of this reality. In Guam, Esta agupa (Until Tomorrow). In French, Au revoir (Till we meet again). In Guatemala, Naíbuga (I am going). In India Gujarati, Fari malshun (See you later). In Mam, Q'onk chípena (Strength to all of you). In Syria, Turkey, Fush beshlomo (Stay in peace). In British English, Farewell (Fair you well). In Spanish, adios [I entrust you to God]. And also in English, goodbye (God be with you).

But in Filipino, goodbye is paalam (Alam means knowledge; paalam means to say something for you to know before you leave). What do we want the person whom we are saying goodbye to, to know? We want them first to know that God is with them wherever they go. We want them to know that we will be praying for them and their intentions. And we want them to know that we love them. We want them to know that though distance separate us, they take our hearts with them too.

That is why goodbyes are also a commencement, a beginning for both the one who leaves and the one who is left behind. St. Paul said that in life and in death, no one can separate us from the love of Christ Jesus (Rom 8, 38-39). That is why the disciples of Jesus returned with great joy, praying in the Temple and praising God after the Ascension of Jesus. Who among us have not been so happy that we love someone and someone loves us in return? And this love is what inspires us to begin life anew. And if we are given a task, we are to see it through.

But most of all, the Ascension reminds us that our love for Jesus and our love for one another is eternal. It is true that our love for our families, friends and significant other can be forever. And in the journey of our lives, there is always an end point, the direction to which we focus our pilgrimage. It is the hope of heaven. CS Lewis said that there are many times that we do not wish heaven, but he wonders at the deepest depths of our hearts, there is no other desire, but the desire for heaven. We pray that the Lord accompanies us in our journey to heaven; in one sense, in our own ascension.

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