Fr. Wilson Andrade is the pastor of St. Ann Parish and the Native Peoples’ Mission, both in Toronto, Ont.
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord. Sceptics say that Jesus had no need to take a journey into space! Critics have ridiculed His Ascension by calling Him the first astronaut! These criticisms aside, the Ascension of Jesus is an important event in the life of the early Church and a turning point in the life of the disciples.
Based on today’s Scriptures, I would like to reflect on these three words: Believe; Baptize; and Become.
In today’s Gospel reading, we hear Jesus give His last instructions to the disciples, as He said: “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved.” The Gospel tells us: “The Lord continued to work with them and confirmed the message by the signs.”
Believing in God is shown not only in words but in charitable actions of love, mercy and peace. Many accepted the message of the first Christians because of their generous sharing and caring for one another – as well as their life of prayer and peace. If we say we believe in God’s love, but live as people who hate others or are jealous or greedy, then we live contrary to our Christian faith.
If we examine ourselves in the light of the Scriptures, do we truly believe in God? A God who is love. A God who calls each one of us to a particular mission of proclaiming the Good News of love, salvation in Jesus Christ and a call to live in unity with the Holy Spirit.
When we believe in God, we are invited to accept God’s call through baptism. Whether we were baptised as infants or as adults, we are all called to be confirmed in our faith in Jesus Christ.
In baptism we enter into new life with Jesus Christ. We become the adopted children of God and temples of the Holy Spirit. Pope Francis says that through baptism, “we permit Christ to live in us, and to live united with him, in order to collaborate in the Church, each according to his or her own condition, to the transformation of the world.”
Baptism is not a one-time show, but a lifelong journey with Christ, whom we are called to follow by “carrying our daily crosses.” In baptism, we begin the journey of faith to become saints with ongoing conversion in the life of Christ. St. Paul beautifully explains in today’s readings how to “lead a life worthy of the calling … with humility, gentleness, patience, love and making every effort to maintain the unity of Spirit in the bond of peace.”
As the seed of faith was planted in our hearts in baptism, we are called to nurture these Christian virtues by growing spiritually mature in the body of Christ. Let the words of St. John Paull II help us to examine ourselves, asking:
What have I done with my baptism and confirmation? Is Christ really at the centre of my life? Do I have time for prayer in my life? Do I live my life as a vocation and mission?
All of us who are baptized are missionary disciples. We are called to become a living Gospel in the world. We are all called to be holy by living our lives with love and by bearing witness in everything we do, wherever we find ourselves.
These inspiring words of Pope Francis echo the invitation of Jesus before His Ascension: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses … to the ends of the Earth.”
The Ascension of our Lord invites us to look around and above so we can become witnesses of the living Gospel of Christ, never losing focus on reaching Heaven. In the words of Pope Emeritus Benedict, Heaven “is not a geography of place but geography of the heart.” Let us become people of the heart – as we pray in the Our Father – “Thy will be done, one Earth as it is in Heaven.”
Let me conclude with the words of St. Theresa of Child Jesus – Little Flower of Jesus:
We live in an age of inventions. We need no longer climb laboriously up flights of stairs; in well-to-do houses there are lifts. And I was determined to find a lift to carry me to Jesus, for I was far too small to climb the steep stairs of perfection. It is your arms, Jesus, that are the lift to carry me to heaven. And so there is no need for me to grow up: I must stay little and become less and less….less heavy so that you carry me quickly to heaven.
Love gave me the key to my vocation. I understood that the Church had a Heart and that this Heart was burning with love. I understood that Love comprised all vocations, that Love was everything, that it embraced all times and places...in a word, that it was eternal!
Lord, increase my faith, help me to believe in you, in your love and mercy, that I may live my baptism worthily, in humility and united in faith, becoming your living witness of your Gospel. Amen.
This reflection is based on the readings for the Ascension of Our Lord, Year B: Acts 1.1-11; Ephesians 1.17-23 or Ephesians 4.1-13; and Mark 16.15-20.