By Christopher Wells
At the Regina Coeli, Pope Francis focused his reflection on the Solemnity of the Ascension, which is observed on Sunday in Italy and other parts of the world.
The feast of the Ascension, he said, has two main elements. “On the one hand, it directs our gaze to heaven, where Jesus, glorified, sits at the right hand of God. On the other, it reminds us of the beginning of the mission of the Church.”
The mission to spread the Gospel, which Jesus commits to the Church, is literally unlimited, the Pope said. This seems particularly audacious when we look at the small band of disciples to whom Jesus entrusted that mission. But this helps us realize that the Church can fulfill her mission only with the strength that God Himself gives. In the Gospel, Jesus tells the disciples, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” This mission, begun by the Apostles, has been carried on by their successors through the ages, and continues even today. “It requires the collaboration of all of us,” the Pope said.
The Ascension also reminds us that we must be ready to meet Jesus and serve Him, and to be His witnesses to our fellow women and men. We must seek after Christ in our own day, and bring His “words of salvation even to the ends of the earth.” In this journey, Pope Francis said, we encounter “Christ Himself in our brothers and sisters,” especially the poorest among us. From the very beginning of the Church, the Risen Christ called disciples to offer concrete and visible signs of hope to others – and we are called to do the same today.
Pope Francis concluded his reflection with the prayer that the Blessed Virgin Mary might help us to “lift up our hearts” to Jesus, and at the same time, to have “our feet on the ground” in order to courageously proclaim the Gospel in our own lives.