12 May 2013 The Solemnity of the Ascension of Jesus Christ.
Acts 1: 1-11; Psalm 47; Heb 9:24-28; Luke 24:46-53
The Solemnity of Ascension of Jesus Christ is a celebration of the end of His earthly ministry. It is when Jesus know that the time has come for him to let go. It is the perfect time to trust his disciples that they too will be able to continue His mission on earth.
The time has come. Great decision-makers possess a sense of the ripeness of things. They know when the time has come, and it is this knowledge that drives the decisions they make.
There is a river that passes modern Savignano, in Northern Italy called the Rubicon River. It is unimpressive today as it was during the time of Julius Caesar, when he stood on its northern bank in 49 BC. It is small to attract attention. With a little drought, the river dries up. To cross it is simple: there is a little bridge that would allow you to reach the other bank.
But during the time of Julius Caesar it was significant. The Rubicon divided Northern Italy. The Northern state was governed by Rome’s senate and the Emperor Pompey. Caesar controlled the other side, called the Cisalpine Gaul. Pompey was once Caear’s ally, but now he was his archrival. To bring an army to the other side would mean civil war. It was forbidden by the Lex Cornelia Majestatis, that a Roman general should lead an army out of his province to which he was assigned. But not to cross means to bring the whole nation into calamity. Rome was misgoverned. To remain on his side means to condone corruption.
According to the great historian Suetonius, Julius Caesar, after some thought, crossed the Rubicon River. Knowing that to cross he would have to conquer Rome or be killed, he called out, “Let us accept this as a sign from the gods, and follow where the beckon, in vengeance on our double-dealing enemies. Alea iacta est!” The die is cast!
Julius Caesar’s audacity gave to the Roman state and to the Greco-Roman civilization, four more centuries of life in the West and six more in the East. He gave to the world a heritage that is greater than history. Until today, the influence of the Greco-Roman civilization is undeniable. It continues to educate us, inform our cultures and evaluate our governments. Crossing the Rubicon river was a great decision. Knowing when was the mark of Julius Caesar.
Like Jesus, great leaders knew when the time has come. Columbus would decide to take the risk to venture into the new world in 1492; Galileo would decide to rethink reality and the universe in 1633; Beethoven would decide to overcome deafness in 1802; Lincoln would emancipate slaves in 1862; Gandhi would decide to choose non-violent revolution in 1893; and John F. Kennedy would decide to let humankind leave the earth in 1961. Many great decision-makers know when it was time.
The same thing for us as we go out and vote tomorrow, 13 May 2013. We must know which candidates know when the time has come for them to let go and let others take their place. We must know which candidates possess the Rubicon factor, those who can decide in a moment of crisis, when to venture into the new global world, when to decide on the light of conscience in a world which tests our moral norms; when to decide to risk everything; and when to decide on the side of peace and hope.
Our mothers do possess the Rubicon factor. My mom used to say, “I have gathered you, in order for me to let you go.” Motherhood is knowing when is the ripe time to gather her brood, and when is the perfect time to let them go. It is about knowing when to decide for their good, and when to let them decide for their own good. Motherhood is about great decision-making. We have seen decisions, when not done wisely and carefully, how it has affected their children, who in turn, because of their misdemeanour, affects others they encounter.
But the Solemnity of the Ascension has another point: it is during his Ascension that the Lord also promised his disciples the Holy Spirit. In other words, leadership is not just about knowing when is the time to entrust, but to also ensure that those entrusted are equipped to carry on the mission they are to perform. Clearly understanding the weakness and challenges of his disciples, the Lord has promised them the gifts of the Holy Spirit that will allow them to preach the Gospel of the Lord as He preached them. By doing so, the Lord has made his disciples his witnesses, to represent Him in contemporary time.
Therefore, all of us here today, as we live in the here and now, are called to be witnesses of the Gospel of repentance and forgiveness. The Gospel of repentance includes a knowledge of the evils in our world, an acceptance that we too have been part of it, and a remorse that we have destroyed God’s goodness. For example, it is knowing that we are not yet free from the clutches of greed, as we’ve seen in the APECO scandal and the greed of the Angaras in Quezon Province. I have also witnessed the greed of Rudy Banico and the Crown Regency as they drive the Ati Community of Boracay from their ancestral domain. I am sure that you too have your own personal experiences of the ills of our nation.
Therefore, we are now like Julius Caesar who contemplated to cross the little bridge of our own Rubicons. And we know it is now the time.
But unlike Julius Caesar, we have been given what we all need: the Holy Spirit. We can do it.
All we need to do is to do it.