Solemnity of the Lord's Ascension
May 24, 2009 (Mk 16:15-20)
May 24, 2009 (Mk 16:15-20)
By Dean Louis Bascon
Jesus said to his disciples: "Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned. These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages. They will pick up serpents with their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover."
So then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them, was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God. But they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.
As we celebrate the Solemnity of the Lord's Ascension, we remember two things that the Lord said before He was brought up to the Father. He told us to proclaim the Gospel to every creature (cf. Mk 16:15). He also told us that He is always with us, until the end of time (cf. Mt 28:20).
The words Jesus spoke during His Ascension are usually referred to as the "Great Commission". He commissioned His disciples to make the whole world his followers, to baptize and to teach them to obey His commandments. In our Gospel today, we read many signs that shall accompany those who believe. Indeed, these signs confirm that the disciples' mission was mandated by heaven, God's own work.
These signs are also God's gifts in order to help the growth of His Church. Indeed, Jesus does not just command His disciples, He also equips them with things they would need in their mission. As was said in our Second Reading today, "Grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ's gift.... And he gave some as apostles, others as prophets, others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers, to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ..." (Eph 4:7, 11-12).
The greatest assurance He gave His disciples was His own presence. Yes, just before He was taken up into heaven, Jesus said He is with us always. It's quite ironic, if we think about it. But this is true. When He ascended, He became more present than ever.
Saying that He is always with His disciples is not just an assurance. It is also part of the commission. Jesus is now commissioning His disciples to make Him present all over the world. They are given the task to repeat Jesus' great wonders. Most importantly, they are charged to become "Jesus" for others.
We, as disciples of Christ, also receive this commission. By virtue of our baptism, we take part in this heavenly mandate. We may not be able to reach many places and preach as theologians do. But Jesus is with us. And He challenges us to live our lives as a testimony to His greatness. He wants us to drive out demons, speak in different languages, and to heal the sick (cf. Mk 16:17-18). We may not be able to do these literally. But since Jesus is with us, we have the power to drive away sin, to speak about God's love and to heal those who are spiritually ill. Jesus is with us, and He will protect us from any harm. So we need not be afraid to preach by words and by the witnesses of our lives that Jesus is with us always, even to the end of time!