Mark 16:15-20
A Longer View of Life
by Rev. Jerome A. Magat
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"

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Mark wrote to explain Christ
to the new Gentile converts.

Jesus said to his disciples: "Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.  Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned.  These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages.  They will pick up serpents with their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.  They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover."


So then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them, was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God.  But they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word though accompanying signs.

The mystery of the Ascension is one of the most powerful tools in consoling the suffering and the dying.  In their ministry, priests often encounter individuals who have lost perspective on what life and living really mean.  These individuals are nearing despair because they only see life on earth as the total sum of their lives.  Burdened with a worldly perspective consumed with the passing temporalities of this life and a lack of faith, there individuals cannot perceive life beyond one's brief sojourn on earth.  Hence, the Ascension reminds us that life on earth is short and that the remainder of life is to be experienced in eternity.  By preceding us in His ascension, Jesus reminds us of our eternal destiny: Life in heaven in a gloried body and soul.  Jesus opens up for us the way back to the Father so that we may live fully in His presence.


The mysterious nature of the Ascension invites us to an increase in the virtue of hope - a filial trust in God that helps us transcend all of the sufferings of this life and assures us the possibility of heaven.  Whenever beleaguered by the rigors of life, the Ascension reminds us that heaven awaits those who are faithful and that all of the sacrifices made in this life can be meritorious in the life of the world to come.  Moreover, the Ascension compels us to seek those who are still far from really knowing Jesus, who describes Himself as the life.  The hope of the Ascension reminds us to witness to others that there is a life in the world to come beyond all imagining and that what we do in this life will reap either a great reward or eternal punishment in the next.

When Jesus assures the apostles of the powers they will have as they preach the Gospel in His name, he reminds them that all power comes from the One who has transcended suffering and death itself on the cross.  Jesus makes no sentimental statement here.  Rather, He solemnly assures the apostles that there is nothing that the Christian life cannot conquer because the power of the Christian life comes from God.  The Fathers of the Church often describe the Ascension as the event that made way for the Holy Spirit to descend upon the Church so as to continue the work of Jesus on earth.

We do well to pray that we continue to life up our hearts to our Father in heaven, with our eyes firmly set on our heavenly homeland and our ultimate desired destination.  This hope should empower us to actively engage the world in this life and help transform it in the name of the Gospel.  May our hope in Him who has ascended to the Father's right hand encourage us to proclaim this hope to others so that His glory may be theirs.

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