Ascension of the Lord

Missionary mandate

In today’s Gospel, the Risen Lord – before ascending into heaven – mandates his disciples to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptised will be saved” (cfr. Mk 16:15).

What then happened after this missionary mandate? The disciples went forth to preach the gospel to the world (cfr. Mark 16:19-20). This was, in fact, the beginning of the apostolic mission in the early Church, a mission which continued throughout the centuries and still continues today through us, the new disciples of the Resurrection.

The Gospel pericope, therefore, presents the beginning of a new journey, the journey of the Church – namely, the beginning of the apostolic mission. This is precisely the sense of the solemnity of the Ascension. Its focus is not only on the historical departure of Jesus from this world, but it is primarily on the departure of the disciples. It is the beginning of their new journey – a journey that, henceforth, they will have to undertake without the “physical” presence of their Teacher. They must now go into the world to carry out their Teacher’s instructions.

A universal mission

From this perspective, we learn that the Church has been entrusted, first of all, with a universal mission: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” The mission of the Church embraces the entire humanity – it is for all the peoples of the world. The message of the Gospel has no confines; it transcends all barriers – it does not discriminate based on colour, race, social standing, etc. – because its purpose is to transform the lives of all and lead all souls to the Lord. Therefore, the salvific mission entrusted to the Church is universal.

The mission to preach

Secondly, the Church has been entrusted with the mission to preach: “… and preach the gospel.” The Church, in its mission of salvation, must preach the message of the Gospel. However, we must be careful here in that we need to understand that “preaching the Gospel” is not uttering abstract notions. It is not pronouncing doctrinal matters. It not only involves exhortation, but, above all, it is sincerely talking about the Lord without arrogance and without expressing the message in a pompous and dogmatic way so that it may penetrate the hearts of listeners.

Not only in words
Thirdly, the Church has been given the mandate to preach not only in words but in deeds as well. If the Lord has transformed my life for the better, I must use that experience in my apostolic mission so that the lives of others may also be inspired and transformed. Thus, we ought to preach the Gospel with our lives, with concrete deeds, inspired by the evangelical values.

If our words and actions are rooted in what I would call a Gospel-centred vision, we shall indeed become credible witnesses of the Gospel. In fact, a credible Church that makes an effort NOT to engage in scandalous and hypocritical activities, that commits herself to doing the Lord’s will, produces powerful signs that say to the world: “we serve the living God, who is above all things, who is among us and continues to operate in human history.”

Difficult but divinely assured

This missionary mandate, dearly beloved, was not easy for the Apostles – but the Lord never abandoned them: “Then the disciples went out and preached … and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word.” In the contemporary world, we, you and I, all of us, are the new generation of the Church and the new disciples of the Resurrection. Let us, therefore, continue the mission that began with the Apostles. Let us continue this universal journey, through the preaching of the Gospel in words and in deeds, especially in this world which is hostile to the message of the Gospel. Surely, this is a difficult task, but we have been divinely assured that the Spirit of the Lord will always be with us.