The Ascension of the Lord


THE ASCENSION OF THE LORD (B) Mark 16: 15-20 - May 13, 2018

Go and teach all nations, says the Lord; I am with you always, until the end of the world “.

When we leave our family or friends we do not like to say good-bye, we prefer to say something else like So long, or See you soon. Only when we bury a loved one or a dear friend, we say our last good-bye to that person. In our culture to say good-bye has become a sad expression, meaning that we will not see a person any more. Saint Luke tells us at the very end of his Gospel that when Jesus was separated from the apostles after his Ascension, “They worshipped him and went back to Jerusalem full of joy.”(Lk 24:52) When Jesus was preparing his disciples for this departure he told them that it was better for them that he would go away, to send them the Holy Spirit, the teacher and counselor. Jesus never said good-bye, because he promised to remain with them. Saint Matthew in his Ascension account tells us that Jesus said to his apostles, “Know that I will be with you until the end of time.”

We might think that the Ascension of Jesus marked a sad moment for the apostles; so the question is, why did they have to be joyful about, since they no longer would see their leader and Master? But we learn from this feast and from Pentecost that the Ascension was the preparation for the real beginning of the Church, the wonderful experience of the mission of the disciples. Right before he ascended into heaven, Jesus tells 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.”

The following lines of the Gospel cannot be interpreted in a literal way, in a form of fundamentalism that tells that every word of the Bible has to be believed exactly as it is written: “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." What Jesus wanted to teach was that his disciples could conquer evil in all its forms. In the Bible a snake represents the devil. His followers could beat off the devil. Poison represents not just a poisonous mixture, but the evil of the world: hatred, envy, materialism, corruption, terrorism, different addictions, and many other forms of evil. Jesus said that his followers would be able to take on the poison of the world and defeat it.

During our life we have to fight the temptations of the devil and its poison. Some of them are inside of us some are imposed upon us by others. One person has to fight against alcohol, drugs, infidelity, or sex addiction. Another has to struggle for a personal or a family Christian life. But remember, we are not alone; Jesus has not left us orphans.

Today we are celebrating the Ascension of Jesus into heaven. This is the moment when Jesus gave the Apostles the final instructions to go out to the whole world, proclaim the Good News of the Gospel and baptize those who would believe in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. He then left them and returned to his Father in the glory of heaven. We Christians believe that Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father in order to precede us and prepare for us a place in his glory. But this is also a central moment in the whole plan of salvation. We receive the task from Jesus to continue and carry on his work of evangelization.

During this week between the Ascension of the Lord and Pentecost we pray for a renewed coming of the Holy Spirit. As Jesus ascends to heaven he says to us: “Go to work. Go and proclaim the Gospel everywhere. Beat off the devil. Beat off the poisons of the world. You can win them because I am with you always, and the Holy Spirit strengthens you.” In football and in our life the best defense is a good offense. We go on offense. The Holy Spirit is our defense.

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