Balik-Tanaw | 7th Sunday of Easter: God is with us, let this be our prayer

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Let us be the feet of God, go to those who are in need. Let us be the hands of God, share and give whatever little that you have to those who are most in need. Let us be the mouthpiece of God, denounce that which brings pain and sorrow to our brothers and sisters in the margins.

By BR. RITCHE T. SALGADO, O.Carm.
Bulatlat.com

Psalm 27:1, 4, 7-8
Acts 1:12-14
1Peter 4:13-16
John 17:1-11

The quarantine caused us so much grief. We lost a lot, including our routines, our comforts, and for many, their jobs and their source of livelihood. They basically lost the source of their livelihood, have been reduced to begging in order to survive. Beg from their neighbors, beg from the church, and even beg from the government to provide them food and other essentials, when in reality the government promised to take care of those in need in this time of crisis. Empty promises. Pandemic has led us to collective grieving, as psychologists would call it.

But the sad part really is, many of us who have lost a loved one in this time of a global health crisis, have been denied the opportunity to grieve.

Serving in one of our parishes in Quezon City, I have seen many grieving families, unable to properly send off their loved one. A group of young boys are now left to fetch for themselves as they lost their mother to cancer. Lockdown without systematic plan for health services has denied their mother of the treatment she needed. She was the only breadwinner, and had we not visited them to deliver aid from the church, we would not have known the tragedy.

I have also heard of a sister who never even had the opportunity to take a last glimpse of her brother because he had to be cremated because it would be hard to transport his remains from Cavite where he worked as a security guard, to their house in Quezon City. Unable to buy his maintenance medicine because of the lockdown, he died of a heart attack, on the job.

Where is God amid the pain that this global health crisis is causing us?

Churches are closed and we seem to have lost touch of our faith. Devotional practices as our means of communicating our love for him are affected .We feel empty, we feel lost, we feel that we have been forgotten.

Today is the last Sunday of Easter before Pentecost Sunday.

In the Philippines, we celebrate this Sunday as Ascension Sunday, which traditionally is celebrated 40 days after Easter Sunday, technically a Thursday. Today, our reflection would focus on the readings of the seventh Sunday of Easter, which brings us to that time after Christ ascended into heaven. So what did the disciples do?

Our first reading (Acts 1:12-14) tells us that they returned to Jerusalem and went to the upper room of the place where they were staying and together, in one accord, devoted themselves to prayer together with the dear mother of Jesus, Mary, whom the Carmelites look up to as mother and sister.

Jesus is no longer with them, and although they were happy, confident of the resurrection of Christ, confident that death has been conquered, confident that they are saved, a chosen people, but what now? They were lost, they did not know what to do.

Prayer is an attitude that they got from Jesus, to contemplate in their hearts the events that happened in their lives in order to discern, to listen to the voice of God, to know what God is telling them.

This is also the attitude of Mary, who, in every event of her life, we always hear her keeping these events in her heart.

As if to answer their prayer, our Gospel today reveals to us the prayer of Jesus for himself and his disciples, which he shared with his disciples during the Last Supper. This is called the High Priestly prayer.

He has not forgotten them, God has not forgotten them, but the disciples at the time didn’t take notice of Jesus’ prayer because it carried a different meaning for them at the time. Jesus was still with them.

In this prayer we hear Him speak how much He knows the Father and how much his disciples know him. To know the Father is to know him and in him we know the will of the Father.

But in this prayer, it is vital that we look at the last passage: “And now I will no longer be in the world, but they are in the world, while I am coming to you,” so Father, please protect them because physically I will no longer be with them to protect them.

This is how much God loves us – our life is not ours, and in death, we are not ours; we are the Lord’s. (cf. Romans 14:8). And God’s love is such that He will not abandon us, he will not leave us to suffer. (cf. Hebrews 13:5-6, Isaiah 41:10, 1 Peter 5:7). But the disciples didn’t remember.

From the beginning Jesus has been preparing them to this day and today we are reminded of this.

As we face the challenges of this health crisis and the tragedy that the quarantine has caused many of our brothers and sister in the margin – the abuse of our most basic human rights, the neglect of government officials of our most basic needs, the sacrifices that we had to unnecessarily endure because of the disregard of those in power – in all these, God is with us and he has not abandoned us in our struggle to pursue social justice in addressing the pandemic.

But how can we tell this to our brothers and sisters who are suffering?

Let us be the feet of God, go to those who are in need. Let us be the hands of God, share and give whatever little that you have to those who are most in need. Let us be the mouthpiece of God, denounce that which brings pain and sorrow to our brothers and sisters in the margins.

As Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana said, “COVID means we must listen to the “cry of the poor,” including the unemployed, migrants, all the vulnerable.”

In this time of grief, let us be that source of hope that would allow people to realize that God is with them in their time of pain and sorrow, that God is with us, that God will not allow injustice to be the new normal.

Let this be our prayer. ()

Balik-Tanaw is a group blog of Promotion of Church People’s Response. The Lectionary Gospel reflection is an invitation for meditation, contemplation, and action. As we nurture our faith by committing ourselves to journey with the people, we also wish to nourish the perspective coming from the point of view of hope and struggle of the people. It is our constant longing that even as crisis intensifies, the faithful will continue to strengthen their commitment to love God and our neighbor by being one with the people in their dreams and aspirations. The Title of the Lectionary Reflection would be Balik –Tanaw , isang PAGNINILAY . It is about looking back (balik) or revisiting the narratives and stories from the Biblical text and seeing ,reading, and reflecting on these with the current context (tanaw).

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