19 May 2012

SOuLar POWER

Solemnity of the Lord’s Ascension
Mk 16:15-20 (Acts 1:1-11 / Ps 47 / Eph 1:17-23)

With the benefits of Facebook, Twitter, and other cyber means of exchanges, many already know that I am an uncle to last year’s Miss Friendship in Binibining Pilipinas and this year’s Miss Photogenic and a finalist in the Miss World-Philippines, Miss Samantha Purvor.  She is competing again.  This time around, Sam is one of the favorite candidates in the Miss Philippines-Earth 2012.  We in our clan are not at all shy to say that our dear Sam has indeed joined the three major pageants in the country, for in two of those, she received a handful of awards and in Miss Philippines-Earth, though pageant night will be on the 27th of this month yet, she already received a number of awards as well.  Some beauty pageant aficionados claim that Miss Philippines-Earth is the pageant for Sam, and many – both her supporters and critics – say that she should already bring home the crown this time around.  I don’t know.  But what I’m certain about is that Miss Philippines-Earth is really Sam’s first love, but for some good reason she decided not to join two years ago.  For the meantime, the two other major pageants prepared her very well for her first love.

Please don’t get me wrong, my homily today is not about Sam, much less about beauty pageants.  Nonetheless, I decided to mention Sam because of the advocacy she is pushing in the Miss Philippines-Earth 2012.  The truth is, Miss Philippines-Earth is Sam’s first love because it is a cause-oriented, and not only beauty-centered, pageant.  A natural civic leader-volunteer, Sam has been gifted not only with brains and beauty but also with a heart that cares to do its share for a better world.  She is active in the Red Cross and in other cause-oriented organizations and movements.  I should say, Sam uses her brains and beauty to push advocacies for the good of others.  “I want to promote and reinforce the use of solar bottles and solar panels to reduce the usage of coal fuel and consequently reduce carbon emissions in the Philippines,” Sam says.

Sam’s advocacy in maximizing the use of solar energy reminds me of a book written by Denis Hayes, entitled “Rays of Hope: The Transition to a Post-Petroleum World”.  Hayes asserts that humanity is at the crossroads of making the critical choice in favor of solar power.  “The sun,” Hayes explains, “is the world’s only inexhaustible, predictable, egalitarian, non-polluting, safe, terrorist-resistant, and free energy source.  We already know how to use solar energy to grow food, make wine, and operate greenhouses.  Now we need to harness solar power to light up our homes, drive our cars, and run our industry.”  We see Hayes’ dream coming true even here in the Philippines through our first solar-powered vehicles as well as in our solar bottles and solar panels.

Sam and Hayes share a common advocacy.  They both look at the sky with its sun as the main source of our future power supply.  We, too, share in their cause.  But we look at the sky today for another reason.  We are celebrating the Solemnity of the Lord’s Ascension.  The Gospel today reports to us that after Jesus spoke to the disciples, He was taken up into heaven and took His seat at the right hand of God.  In the first reading today, the book of the Acts of the Apostles (1:1-11) echoes the same testimony: “When He had said this, as they were looking on, He was lifted up, and a cloud took Him from their sight.”  The same first reading even continues narrating to us: “While they were looking intently at the sky as He was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them.  They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky?’”

We look at the sky not only for the future source of energy: the sun.  We look at the sky for our very life itself: Jesus.  Jesus is the Sol Invictus!  He is the Victorious Sun!  On this day when we celebrate His ascension into heaven, the idea of power is given emphasis.

In the first reading, before He ascends into heaven, Jesus promises His disciples that they will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon them.  The Holy Spirit will transform them into His courageous and convincing witnesses.

In the second reading, Paul the Apostle writes to the church in Ephesus (Eph 1:17-23) about the surpassing greatness of Jesus’ power in us who believe.  The Apostle prays that the eyes of our hearts be enlightened to the hope that comes with our vocation as Christians and to the immeasurable wealth of the glory we have inherited with the other believers in Christ.

In the Gospel, the idea of power appears twice – first, as promise by Jesus before the ascension and, second, in the accomplishments of the disciples after the ascension.  Jesus gives His word to those who are saved by baptism: “These signs will accompany those who believe: in My name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages.  They will pick up serpents with their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.  They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”  And, indeed, when the disciples preach the Gospel, Jesus works with them, confirming their word through accompanying and powerful signs.

It is very clear that power is one of the principal effects of the Lord’s ascension.  Interestingly, while Jesus fades from our sight, His power nonetheless remains operative.  Indeed, He is not visible to us until He comes again at the end of time, but He remains present in our midst.  He is present not only to us but in us and through us as well.  Thus, what our physical eyes fail to see, our hearts never miss to feel.  We continue to experience the power of Jesus.

As the sun is solar power to us, Jesus is our “Soul Power” – the power of our souls.  We cannot see Him with our eyes, but Jesus is the power behind the lives of people who inspire us.  We cannot hear Him with our ears, but Jesus animates us with the power of His Word that is read to us from the Scriptures and explained to us by His ministers.  We cannot feel Him with our hands, but Jesus still touches us though the power of His sacraments, making us children of God, empowering us with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, feeding us with the bread of life, healing us from both spiritual and bodily afflictions, blessing our unions, and consecrating for us shepherds according to His heart.  Jesus ascended into heaven, but He is not confined to the skies.  He sits at the right hand of the Father, but He continues walking with us in our journey through life.  He has not left us.  He was Emmanuel, “God-with-us”, once; He is Emmanuel forever for each of us.

Galileo Galilei once remarked that the sun, with all the planets revolving around it and depending on it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as if it had nothing else in the universe to do.  The same may be said about Jesus, our Sol Invictus, our Soul Power.  Though the whole universe depends on His power to stay in existence, Jesus shines upon each of us with the powerful rays of His love as if He had nothing else to do.

How about us?  How many of us seem to have more than what we can hold so that devoting time for Jesus appears to be an added burden?  How in the world can we be too busy to let the power of Jesus’ love shine through us to others?   Does the universe depend on us for its existence the way it does on Jesus?  Do we not instead depend on Jesus for our existence?  Yet how many of us always find something else to do than our own share – no matter how seemingly little and ordinary – in the task entrusted to us by Jesus to go and proclaim the Gospel?

Solar power was Denis Hayes’ dream for the world.  Samantha Purvor advocates the same.  We certainly share in their dream, in their advocacy, in their vision of a better world for a better humanity.  But everything will redound to nothing without Jesus.  He is our “SOuLar Power”.  Until He returns to our sight, can He be our advocacy, too?

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