Ascension is Just the Beginning

Mark 16:15-20

Ascension is Just the Beginning – Mark 16: 15-20, Thursday, May 10, 2018

 


It’s tempting to see the Ascension, the conclusion of Christ’s earthly ministry, as an ending. But to think of it that way is to see things backwards. What we celebrate today is really a beginning.

 

As we heard in Mark’s gospel, moments before his Ascension, Jesus told his followers very simply: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.” In Matthew’s account, Jesus says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” He was urging his followers to baptize, to teach, to carry on the work that he had begun. But his first direction was so blunt, so direct, and so clear: “Go. The world is waiting. Act on what I’ve taught you”, Jesus said. “Put it into practice.”

 

But the account in Acts offers another challenge – to the disciples, and to us.  After the disciples watched Jesus disappear into the clouds, two men appeared. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing there looking at the sky?” In other words: what the heck are you waiting for?

 

The apostles were not supposed to spend their time staring nostalgically at the stars, awaiting Christ’s return.  There was work to do. There was a world waiting to be converted. They left the mountain, went into the city, and launched the greatest missionary undertaking in human history.

 

No matter the account, it seems to me that Christ’s first word at that moment was a simple command to us all: “Go.”

Go – and transform the world.

Go – and pick up those who have fallen.

Go – and heal those who are hurting.

Go – and love those who have been forgotten.

Or: as we commonly announce at the dismissal at the end of Mass: “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.”

 

The disciples did that. So did so countless others. All of Jesus’ preaching and teaching, his miracles, his gathering and sending of disciples, even his cross and resurrection, are a part of this basic ministry that is called evangelization. For Jesus, evangelization was his commitment to bring good news of God’s kingdom to everyone – as he said over and over again, “For the Son of Man came to seek and save what was lost.” 

 

I find it especially interesting that this message of going out into the world and share the Gospel to everyone is embedded into a weekday Mass.  A lot of us this morning will leave this church after Mass and go or return to work. There will be many people who we will see today who live in a different kind of world than we who have come to church. Coming to church today is/would be the last thing on their mind.

 

As we’ve seen from recent studies, there are now more US Citizens in the “none” category (no religious affiliation) than there are Catholics.  As disheartening as this news is that the “none” category is the largest emerging group in the country, we have to see our role as integral in turning that around, one person at a time.

 

We may have things to do at work, bosses to deal with, deadlines to meet, or maybe work around the house, or the community. But we have other work to do as well — the great commission that all of us are charged with carrying out: Go out and proclaim the Gospel with our words and deeds. How will we do that? How will we heed Christ’s order to “go”? How will we make the ordinary job of living transcend, and ascend? Put simply: How can we be the bridge for others between the isolated world of non-belief that they live in, and the kingdom of God?

 

So many are still waiting to hear, and understand, what it means to be a disciple of Christ, and to love one another. Fr Bob Gielow hinted at this last night in his homily. He said, “Startle people with your kindness” – open doors, let someone jump in front of you in line, find a way to affirm the goodness in another person. Sooner or later they’ll make the connection. They’ll see the joy in your zeal to help them, and they’ll become convicted that they want some of that joy too, and will begin to seek answers.

 

Do you know of one person who you will see today who has fallen and needs lifted up, someone who is hurting, or who has been forgotten?  They are the low hanging fruit – those who are most receptive.  How about those who have had been greatly blessed but simply don’t realize it, or don’t realize the source of their blessing?  We are awash in opportunities.

 

So the message of this beautiful solemnity, I think, is very simple: do not stay too long on the mountain. Don’t spend time gazing at the stars, living in the past or dreaming about the future.  Look, instead, at what lies before us.  Get ready.  And go.

 

The Ascension was just the beginning.  The rest is now up to us!

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