Gospel Mark 16:15-20
‘As they looked on, He was lifted up and a cloud took Him from their sight.’
Dear friends, today is the 7th and last Sunday of Easter as well as celebrating the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord. The Ascension is a Scriptural event in the life of Jesus and an important Feast in the Church. Ascension is the glorification of Jesus and it was an event instructed at the Holy Spirit’s direction. Ascension and Pentecost are interconnected. Jesus’ Resurrection was His victory over sin and death and filled with immense joy, God lifted Him up into Heaven. Ascension marks the end of Jesus appearing to His disciples. From now on He will visit His disciples in a spiritual manner. But that did not mean Jesus’ mission came to an end with His Ascension from earth.
In today’s Readings we hear that immediately before His Ascension, Jesus entrusted His mission to His disciples, saying – You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. The same mission is now ours, both as individuals and as the Church. Jesus is present in the Church in a different manner; He is the invisible leader of the visible Church. From this day onwards the physical presence of Christ is part sacramental so that Christ is always with us in the signs of all the Sacraments – in Baptism, in receiving the Eucharist, Confirmation, Reconciliation, Matrimony, Holy Orders and the Anointing of the sick.
Ascension can also be seen as Jesus parting from His disciples. In the First Reading we heard the farewell scenario. This showed the departure of Jesus disappearing in the Heavens. But the Spirit fills them with joy through His departed gifts of understanding so they can fully comprehend the Scriptures, and His promise to be with them until the end of time.
In the second Reading we hear the belief of the afterlife from St Paul to the Ephesians. God the Father wants Jesus seated at His right hand. To be seated at God’s right hand is to share power with God. The Father has made Jesus Lord of Heaven and earth which is what we really celebrate on the Feast of the Ascension. St Paul goes on to say that Christ lives in us and we now need to become Christ for others. Once He left the world He has given us His Spirit and we have to carry on His work.
In the Gospel Jesus is taken up into Heaven and the disciples go forth to preach. The Feast of the Ascension is the hope of all glorification and a guarantee to meet our God in Heaven. Ascension is a reminder of our salvation, a reminder that our true hope is in Heaven. So today we are challenged to go look beyond this world to the destiny which we will share with Christ in Heaven. This world is temporal; it is a way of passage and not a world of permanence. Moreover this Feast of the Ascension is also a reminder for all of us, not just of what awaits us when we die, but also what we still need to do while we are alive in this world. Let us therefore rejoice today that Christ has ascended into Heaven and one day we will return to Jesus, let us strive to fulfil our missionary calling by spreading the Gospel message wherever we find ourselves and living it concretely in our lives. Amen.