By Father Patrick Longalong
It was late in the evening when I received a text, “Are you still awake?”
It wasn’t long after I sent “yes” that the phone rang. My friend teaches at a school for at-risk youth. He told me a story that got him over the edge. It was really a simple story of him giving a simple instruction but the student doing the opposite of what he said. At the end of the day, he was wondering if the student was doing it on purpose to drive him crazy or if English was not a language that was understood.
This weekend’s readings convey stories about people hearing and responding to the testimonies given by the apostles of Jesus. In the first reading, it was mentioned that when Philip proclaimed Christ and performed miraculous healings, “there was great joy in that city.”
We heard a few times during Jesus’ public ministry the importance of listening and putting into action the faith that we say we profess. Our action is evidence of our relationship with the Lord. Relationship requires its own process to grow. When Jesus ascended to the Father, his disciples might have felt some distance from him. What does it mean to love a God that feels so far away?
This is a question that I hear once in a while from people who seek to live out their faith despite their own personal struggles. Is God really here with me or is He somewhere else? One issue that many immigrants deal with is the reality of having long distance relationships. I was introduced to a man from Woodside by a common friend from the Philippines.
He has been working in New York for many years and was only able to visit his family every other year. During one of our conversations he said, “Long distance relationship can only work with a lot of effort. You have to be honest and faithful to the fact that you are already with someone. Each day there should be no doubt in the way you speak and act that you are already taken.”
A frequent comment I hear from a non-believer or even a fellow Christian is the fact that many who proclaim to follow Jesus don’t seem to show any evidence that they are in a relationship with the Lord in their day-to-day interactions. In the second reading, St. Peter encouraged his community to remain faithful in their “good conduct” as it will be their vindication in their testimony to Christ as Lord of their hearts.
St. Ignatius of Loyola’s message as he concludes the Spiritual Exercises is a precaution not to allow our faith to become mere empty words and feelings that does not effect change. He was explicit to say that “love is shown more in deeds than in words.”
At the conclusion of my conversation with the man in Woodside, he said, “At first, long distance relationship was difficult, but the more I live each day fully committed to my family, it is as if I get filled with renewed inspiration to continue to do my best.”
Without realizing it, he just explained to me what Jesus meant by saying, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always.” (John 14:15-16)
In a few days, we will celebrate Ascension Thursday. Jesus did not leave his disciples on their own. On the contrary, He will become more present to them more than ever through the power of the Holy Spirit that is soon to arrive. For now, we remain vigilant like the disciples. Committed in our love for the Lord through our daily actions but confident that God will sustain us with whatever we need to remain faithful for the rest of our lives.
Readings for the Sixth Sunday of Easter
Acts 8: 5-8, 14-17
Psalm 66: 1-3, 4-5, 6-7, 16, 20
1 Peter 3: 15-18
John 14: 15-21
Father Longalong is the pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes, Queens Village, and coordinator of the Ministry to Filipino Immigrants.