By Devin Watkins
The Solemnity of the Ascension was celebrated in the Vatican last Thursday, but Italy and many other countries celebrate the Lord’s ascent into Heaven on Sunday.
At the Regina Coeli prayer in the Apostolic Library, Pope Francis reflected on the missionary mandate Jesus gave His disciples during their final meeting(Mt 28:16-20).
Jesus invests all who follow Him with the mission to all peoples, said the Pope.
“The contents of the mission entrusted to the Apostles are these: to proclaim, baptize, and teach how to walk the path traced out by the Master, that is, the Gospel.”
Pope Francis said the message of salvation requires Christians to be witnesses, “to explain why we believe.”
He added that we will surely feel inadequate when faced with such a daunting task, as the Apostles undoubtedly felt before us.
But “we must not be discouraged, remembering the words Jesus addressed to them before ascending to Heaven: ‘I am with you always, to the very end of the age’ ”, the Pope said.
Constant, consoling presence
Jesus thus promised to remain with us always, in the constant and consoling presence of the Holy Spirit.
“That Spirit, sent by Christ and the Father, works the remission of sins and sanctifies all those who are repentant and open themselves with confidence to His gift.”
Pope Francis said Jesus’s presence among us as the Risen One is revealed “in the Word, in the Sacraments, and in the constant and interior action of the Holy Spirit.”
“The Feast of the Ascension,” he noted, “tells us that Jesus, although He ascended to Heaven to dwell gloriously at the right hand of the Father, is still and is always among us: this is the source of our strength, our perseverance and our joy.”
Gentleness and courage
In conclusion, the Pope asked the Virgin Mary to accompany our journey with her maternal protection.
“From her may we learn the gentleness and courage to be witnesses in the world of the Risen Lord.”