The Gifts, The Gospel, and the Going
By Br Thomas Thérèse Mannion, O.P | Our Lord’s words to the disciples before Ascension in today’s Gospel raises some curious questions, among them: when was the last time we drank poison and were fine? It is a train of thought that helps Br Thomas explain why the Ascension is a great feast of hope.
Gospel of the Mass: Mark 16:15-20
Lets talk about the elephant in the room: When was the last time we cast out a devil? When was the last time we drank poison and were fine? When was the last time we laid our hands on the sick and they recovered? If faith without works is dead and, I personally do not perform these works, does that mean my faith is dead or that I’m not a true disciple? No. These signs are worked by the Lord to confirm the preaching of Gospel.
Who in the world does not know the great miracles of healing the Lord has worked in Lourdes? Who does not know the Church, in the name of Jesus Christ, casts out demons through her exorcists? What language does the Church not yet speak to preach the Gospel for the salvation of souls? Have courage! Are you not part of the Church who works these signs? Well, if not turn away from your sins, seek baptism and believe as the Gospel says and you shall be saved. Remember, the Lord does not just ask us ‘Do you love me?’ but he also says ‘if you love me keep my commandments’ and ‘you are my friends if you do what I command you’. Yet his love for us is not conditional, it proceeds our love for him and it is because of his perfect love for us we hope not because our love for him is perfect. We cannot let our mistakes or those of others, distract, discourage or deter us from our mission to preach the Gospel.
Why did the Lord come? He came because he desires that all souls should be saved, this is why the Apostles are told to preach, why we as Christians preach. Jesus came to seek out the lost and to show mercy to the sinner. Those who are well have no need of a physician, he came for sinners, he came for the sick. He came for each and every human being. He considers each soul so precious to him that he leaves the ninety-nine sheep behind to go in search for the one. That one soul is like many for the Lord. It is for these same reasons he died for us and he rose for us that our joy may be complete.
That’s why the Lord came, today we celebrate that the Lord went, why did the Lord go? Jesus ascended into heaven to send the Holy Spirit, to show us he has the power to accomplish what he set out to do, so we can have faith in him, to show us what we can hope for. We hope that where he is we may follow. Jesus says in the Gospel of John: ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.’
Notice that whilst the Lord was taken up into heaven, in another sense he does not leave his disciples, the Gospel says: ‘… the Lord was working with them…’ when they were preaching the Gospel. The signs spoken about are always his work, preaching the Gospel is his mission that he entrusts to us. He has not abandoned us in our mission. Jesus says at the end of Matthew’s Gospel ‘behold I am with you always, even to the end of time’.
Jesus Christ is our ‘sure and certain’ hope, and ‘in our hope we were saved’. Today’s feast, the Ascension is a great feast of our hope: Jesus Christ ascended to the Father, is seated at his right hand, and he went to prepare a place for us. It is from our hope that we preach. Not our gifts, not our moral character – our faith, our hope, our love, our joy. Let us remember, because of our Baptism, because of our Confirmation, the mission to preach is our mission too. ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon us, because he has anointed us to preach good news to the poor. He has sent us to proclaim release to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour’.