This Sunday we celebrate the feast of the Ascension. Our Gospel is Matthew’s story of the Ascension, which concludes his Gospel. Luke also concludes his Gospel with a very short description of the Ascension, but then begins his Acts of the Apostles with a longer, more detailed version, which we also hear this weekend.
The fact that various books of the Bible begin or end with the Ascension underscores that it is a turning point in our salvation history. Jesus has concluded His part of the mission; He is now getting out of the way so that His followers can take up the mission and do their part.
An analogy that came to my mind is that of teenagers leaving home to go to college. While they are at home, their parents are over them, watching them, telling them what to do. Once they leave home for college, they need to find their own way. The parents are no longer running their lives. The teenagers need to take responsibility for their lives and move forward.
What we celebrate today is that we have been given the mission and we must take it up, bearing responsibility for moving it forward. And what is the mission? In the first reading we hear, …you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. In the Gospel, we hear, Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. With various words, all the accounts tell us that the so-called “great commission” is what it is all about: living in such a way that we are bringing all people to Christ.
But the great news is that we do not have to do it alone. We have the gift of the Holy Spirit (which we will celebrate this coming Sunday with the feast of Pentecost). We have the Eucharist (which we will celebrate in 3 weeks with the feast of Corpus Christi). We have the community. We have not been left orphaned, even though Jesus had to leave this world and return to His Father. We have all the help and support we need.
As we celebrate this feast today, let us thank the Lord, who has included us in His great mission to save all people. This is what inspired our Salvatorian Founder, Francis Jordan, to start his work. It is what inspires me to do my best to participate in this mission. My prayer is that all of us at St. Pius will grow in our ability to live the great commission: go and make disciples of all nations. God bless.
Church sign of the week: The journey might be difficult, but the arrival will be worthwhile.