Acts 1:1-11; Eph 1:17-23; Mk 16:15-20
The Ascension of Jesus
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2018 Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord
Today we celebrate the unique event described in the readings, the day when Jesus “was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God” – the Ascension of the Lord. With his Ascension, the Lord passes from our sight while remaining always with us in the power of his Spirit. He commissions us to continue the work he has begun, saying: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.” What a massive and daunting task! The Lord entrusts to us the whole world and every creature in it. In particular, he mentions the creatures who can make free decisions to believe and be baptized or not. In other words, every human person is the Lord’s “target audience.” He sends us on a mission of salvation toeveryone, so great is our God and his desire for our salvation.
But how can this enormous task be accomplished? Jesus himself gives us the answer in the first reading. He tells the Apostles not to depart from Jerusalem yet. He does not expect them to go off on their own and accomplish a humanly impossible task. Rather he tells them to “wait for the promise of the Father.” This time of obedient waiting in faith is crucial, because within a few days, he says, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.” With this divine power, and only with this power, will the Church be able to proclaim the Gospel to every creature. Jesus even describes the progression of this universal proclamation. It will start right there in Jerusalem on Pentecost, then extend throughout Judea and Samaria, and in time “to the ends of the earth.”
Why proclaim the Gospel to the ends of the earth? There is more to it than simply obeying a command of the Lord. When the Lord plants his Spirit in our hearts, we are filled with zeal for sharing his life with everyone. In today’s second reading, St. Paul speaks about what he wants for his converts in Ephesus – and for all people. He wants us all to receive “a Spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of him.” He wants the eyes of our hearts to be enlightened, “that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones, and what is the surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe.” This “hope” is for eternal life with the God who loves us. The “riches of glory” he bestows on us is the gift of being the sons and daughters of the Most High God. Any loving father wants to give his children an abundance of riches; even more our Father in heaven! Paul prays that we come to know this God and “the fullness of the One who fills all things in every way.”
Zeal to invite everyone to live in eternity with God and to see the “surpassing greatness of his power” in all who believe – this is what drove the Apostles to preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth, and even to suffer martyrdom. When the “eyes of our hearts” have been enlightened to see the immeasurable love God has for us, we cannot but preach the Gospel to others. We do this mostly by how we live our lives, in countless little ways: sometimes through a gesture of love towards others, or a kind word spoken to someone who is going through a difficult time. It is astounding but true: we participate in the great work that began when Jesus ascended and sent his Spirit: “They went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.”
Do I believe that salvation is meant for everyone? How have the eyes of my heart been enlightened? In what ways can I more fully participate in the great work of Christ?
See Today’s Readings: Cycle B
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