Readings: Acts 1:1-11; 1 Ephesians 1:17-23; Gospel Matt. 28:16-20
Go, Therefore, and Make Disciples of All Nations!
1. Today we celebrate the Ascension of our Lord into heaven. Article 6 of the Creed states: “He Ascended into Heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. Christ’s body was glorified at the moment of his Resurrection, as proved by the new and supernatural properties it subsequently and permanently enjoys. But during the forty days when he eats and drinks familiarly with his disciples and teaches them about the kingdom, his glory remains veiled under the appearance of ordinary humanity. Jesus’ final apparition ends with the irreversible entry of his humanity into divine glory, symbolized by the cloud and by heaven, where he is seated from that time forward at God’s right hand” (CCC 659). After the ascension, the task of preaching the Gospel was passed on to the apostles. Christ promised that he would be with them through his Spirit to accomplish the work of evangelization. The disciples were asked therefore, “Galileans, why are you standing there looking up at the sky?” (Acts. 1:10-11). “Ascension is not a time to commemorate Christ’s departure from us, but rather a time to recall Christ’s presence in our midst. This presence is made manifest in the work of the people of God, the Church.” (The Word Alive by Eugene H. Maly).
2. The feast of the Ascension is like taking part in a relay, the baton is passed on from one runner to another. Christ passed on the baton to his apostles and his apostles to us. This is no time to stand idle and watch others. We must obey the divine mandate: “Go make disciples of all nations.” (Matt. 28:19-20). How do we do this? For the start, we can make Paul’s instruction to Timothy ours: “I solemnly urge you to preach the message, to insist upon proclaiming it, whether the time is right or not, to convince, reproach and encourage, as you teach with patience.” (2Tim. 4:2). There are many people out there who are unaware of the passion, death and resurrection of Christ. They do not know that God loves them, passionately, intimately, personally and individually. This then, is our mission: to make Christ known and loved, and, be His witnesses to all nations. We must teach and convince the world of Christ’s love and the need to give our lives in return for his love. In doing this, however, we know that we are not alone. Christ promises to be with us till the end of time. He is with us even during the worse circumstances of our lives. He is with us in his Spirit, who is an agent of evangelization. His Spirit will teach us how to be his disciples, in word and in deed. Our lives must speak much more eloquently than our lips do when it comes to witnessing and teaching. People would much rather see a sermon than listen to one.
3. The Ascension means that Christ leads us from heaven through a shared mission of leadership. He now involves all of his people in the work of the kingdom. In the second reading, St. Paul reminds us that we all have been given gifts for ministries. Some of us are apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, or teachers. We are all equipped for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ. Our gifts must assist us in the task of evangelization. Therefore, we must be the living gospel for people to read. We are called to be good Christians, to have the love of Christ in our hearts and to share same with others. We must be kind, hospitable, compassionate and forgiving. We must learn to show mercy and not be engaged in uncharitable acts. We must refuse to peddle rumors and unkind words about one another. Gossip can ruin without killing, it can tear down homes, break hearts and wreck lives. It only brings confusion and suspicion where distrust is unperceived. Let us spread the message of love instead.
4. Let me conclude with this admonition from Pope Paul Vl. in “Evangelization in the Modern World” he says this about the sign of true evangelization: “The truly evangelized individual must eventually go out to evangelize others. Such a person cannot keep his faith to himself. The power that Jesus has given to us so that we might indeed lead the victorious life of grace must eventually become vocal. The way of life must lead to a proclamation of the word of life.” Pope Francis on the other hand wants “The Church to go out onto the streets. I want us to resist everything worldly, everything static, everything comfortable, everything to do with clericalism, everything that might make us closed in on ourselves. Our parishes, schools and institutions are all made for going out…if they don’t, they become an NGO, and the Church cannot be an NGO. You are bearers of hope…You are the protagonists of the future, artisans for the future…Make the future with beauty, with goodness and truth…Have courage. Go forward. Make noise.” Though Christ is no more with us physically, he is very much around us spiritually. He said goodbye to his disciples so as to allow them grow into mature witnesses. His Spirit, working in and through his disciples taught them the way of love and discipleship. May this same Spirit dwelling in us show us the way to true discipleship. Amen!
Rev. Augustine Etemma Inwang, MSP