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Ascension Sunday: Time to Tell Stories Reflection on World Communication Sunday

Mt. 28:16-20

Once upon a time there was a king who said “sometimes I’m very happy, almost too happy, and sometimes I’m very sad, almost too sad. Can you give me something that will reduce my extreme happiness or lessen my great sadness? After long deliberation, the wise advisers finally returned to the king with a ring. Inscribed on the face of the ring were the words, “This too will pass.”

The king was very pleased. When he was over-happy he realized that his over-happiness would not always be with him. The same was true when the king was very sad. Looking at his ring (“This too will pass”) the king’s anxiety and sadness were reduced, knowing, as he did, that his great sadness wouldn’t last. “Remember: I am with you always”

On this Ascension Sunday, the apostles are confronted with mixed feelings of sadness and joy. Sadness because Jesus had to leave them behind, and joy because they confirmed that Jesus had truly risen and there is a bonus, they saw how the heavens were opened.

In today’s gospel (Matt 28:20) Jesus consoles us, saying, “Remember that I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world. In sadness, all the Christian needs to do is to remember that, even if gladness leaves us, Jesus hasn’t left us and he will never leave us.

“This too will pass,” is a helpful saying, but infinitely more helpful are the words, “I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.” On Christ’s Ascension, he left his disciples a promise to remain with them.

On this time of Covid19 pandemic, we always hear this phrase: This too will pass! We are being assured by our Lord Jesus that we need not despair by always clinging on to Jesus. There is a worldwide suffering and fear due to covid19. But let this Ascension Sunday give us that confidence that He will remain with us always even until the end of time, for this suffering too will soon pass.

Sent: To Tell Stories

Aside from the promise received, the apostles received also a command – to proclaim the Gospel to the whole world. They are being sent to tell the story of Jesus.

Just as we love telling stories, we love listening to stories. Ascension Sunday coincides with the World Communications Sunday (WCD). Just as Jesus is sending his apostles to share Gods love story, the church is also reminding us to communicate the time tested story of the Gospels in the present times.

Pope Francis has sent his WCD message for 2020 based on the theme, “’That you may tell your children and grandchildren’: Life becomes history.” The passage, drawn from the Book of Exodus, highlights the importance of sharing “knowledge of the Lord” and meaningful memories, stories and experiences, so that they may transform people’s lives.

Jesus, who is “the best storyteller -- the Word,” who spoke of God “not with abstract concepts, but with parables, brief stories taken from everyday life” so that “the story becomes part of the life of those who listen to it, and it changes them.”

Stories influence our lives, whether in the form of fairy tales, novels, films, songs, news, even if we do not always realize it,” he said, and people often decide “what is right or wrong based on characters and stories we have made our own.” We have loved stories that presented heroes that helped us “confront difficult situations and combat evil, driven by a force that makes them courageous -- the force of love. These kinds of stories can give people both the example and reasons “to heroically face the challenges of life,” to grow, be enriched and to discover themselves better.

It may be very timely during this time of quarantine, that staying at home may be boring to many. Jesus is giving us a lot of opportunities to tell our stories of joy and sorrow to our families and love ones. When we share our stories of love, we share our experience of faith with Jesus. Nowadays, young people listen to messages of messengers they can feel. With the advent of social media, sending stories of love will be the best expression of our faith.

Avoid Fake Stories

However, the pope warned, “our story has been threatened” by the temptation of evil that entices with false promises and uses the power of storytelling “for purposes of exploitation.” At a time “when falsification is increasingly sophisticated, reaching exponential levels -- as in deep fake -- we need wisdom to be able to welcome and create beautiful, true and good stories,” Pope Francis wrote. “We need courage to reject false and evil stories. We need patience and discernment to rediscover stories that help us not to lose the thread amid today’s many troubles. We need stories that reveal who we truly are, also in the untold heroism of everyday life.”

A good story stands the test of time, too, because it nourishes and renews life. Fake news are not meant to last. Again – this too will pass! The scriptures and the stories of the saints are just some of those good stories. As they always “shed light on the human heart and its beauty, the Holy Spirit is free to write in our hearts, reviving our memory of what we are in God’s eyes.” “When we remember the love that created and saved us, when we make love a part of our daily stories, when we weave the tapestry of our days with mercy, we are turning another page,” the pope wrote. “We no longer remain tied to regrets and sadness, bound to an unhealthy memory that burdens our hearts.”

Let us pray that we would inspire the truth in people and help us build stories of peace, stories of love so as to perpetuate the undying love story of God with his people. -Fr. Luisito A. Occiano

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