Today is Ascension Sunday. I originally wrote a piece for Mother’s Day, which we also celebrate today, but with your kind indulgence and of our dear mothers, I invite you to reflect on tomorrow’s elections from the perspective of and, hopefully, enlightened by the Ascension.
The Ascension and Pentecost next Sunday are the twin foundations that set the first Christian community on its mission—some consider this as the founding of the Christian church.
These events frame our Christian life in one element: We are sent on a mission by Christ into the world, and he gives us the Spirit to guide and help us in living out this mission. This we can synthesize into one grace, empowerment.
Our Christian faith is very much centered, rooted and grounded in Christ, yet it is empowering and does not, in its proper exercise, lead to a blind cult that turns followers into zombies.
This missioning and empowerment are given not to one individual, but to a community. The beginning is community (the church) and the end goal is also community (the Kingdom of the Father).
Faith lived is always through, in, with and for community. It begins and ends with community. This is the grace that the Ascension gives us. We are now being sent into the world to continue the mission of Christ “to heal a world wounded by sin and injustice” and to “make disciples of all nations.”
We are sent to a world, our Philippine society divided by one of the most contentious elections in recent decades.
We must create common ground with our shared values; the fundamental value for the truth that makes revisionism and denial of the truth unacceptable.
We will each vote our chosen candidates to lead us. May our vote tomorrow be an act of accepting and taking part in the mission of Christ to heal and empower that leads to a community of justice, peace and love as the proleptic presence (already in our midst, but not yet in its fullness) of the Kingdom of the Father in our world.
The following prayer is paraphrased from the prayer read by President Franklin Roosevelt in his nationwide broadcast on Flag Day, June 14, 1942. He ended his speech with this prayer offered in the midst of the dark days of World War II. It was written for Roosevelt by Stephen Vincent Benet, American author of “The Devil and Daniel Webster.”
I pray that as your read it, your heart and soul as a Filipino, as a Christian begins to pray.
“God of the free, we pledge our hearts and lives today to the cause of all free Filipinos.
“Grant us victory over the tyrants and demagogues who would enslave all free Filipinos and our nation. Grant us faith and understanding to cherish all those who fight for freedom as if they were our brothers and sisters.
“Grant us brother/sisterhood in hope and union, not only for the space of this bitter election, but for the days to come which shall and must unite all Filipinos worldwide.
“Our nation is but a small star in the great universe. Yet of it we can make, if we choose, a nation unvexed by violence and criminality, untroubled by hunger or fear, undivided by senseless distinctions of socio-economic class and regionalism—a nation that once gave the world the gift of a peaceful revolution that can depose an oppressive and corrupt dictatorship.
“Grant us that courage and foreseeing to begin this task today that our children and our children’s children may be proud of the name Filipino.
“The spirit of the Filipino has awakened and the soul of the Filipino has gone forth. Grant us the wisdom and the vision to comprehend the greatness of the Filipino spirit that suffers and endures so hugely for a goal beyond our own brief span in this life—a suffering that ennobles the spirit of selfless sacrifice for future generations, our Filipino youth.
“Grant us honor for our dead who died in the faith that our freedom and progress is worth dying for; honor for our living who work and strive for the freedom, redemption and equality for all our people.
“Grant us patience with the deluded and solidarity for the betrayed that we may heal and together continue our search for the truth that will be common ground for our genuine freedom. And grant us the skill and valor that shall cleanse our nation of oppression and the old base doctrine that the strong must eat the weak because they are strong; the powerful rule over the helpless because they hold the levers of power.
“Yet most of all grant us unity as a people, as fellow Filipinos, not only for this day but for all our years—a union not of words, but of acts and deeds that come from an authentic heart and soul, the heart and soul of the Filipino who worked and died for freedom—the heroes of the Philippine Revolution, of the Fil-American War, World War II, martial law and Edsa; the day-to-day heroes even now who work that our people may be truly free and empowered.
“We are, all of us, children of this nation, grant us this simple knowledge. If our fellow Filipinos are oppressed, then we are oppressed. If they hunger we hunger. If their freedom is taken away our freedom is not secure.
“Grant us a common faith and hope that the Filipino shall know bread and peace; that we shall know justice and righteousness, freedom and security, an equal opportunity and an equal chance to do his best, not only in our own land, but throughout the world.
“And in this faith and hope, let us cast our vote tomorrow as our first act to heal our nation wounded by sin and injustice; to heal and reconcile, making these the foundation of building a Filipino society, a Filipino community worldwide that is caring and just, and provides the freedom and opportunity for all to dream and to pursue their dream. Amen.”