Deacon Jim Olson’s Reflection
058 5-16-21 ASCENSION Mark 16:15-20
Jesus ascends in glory to the Father.
Today’s first reading tells of the Ascension of Jesus and the sending of the Holy Spirit.
Paul’s prayer, in the second reading, asks for wisdom and insight, that we may know the Lord clearly, and, thus, have hope in Him.
In the Gospel, Jesus commissions the Apostles to share the good news with all people and to baptize them.
Verse 15 contains what is called the “universal apostolic mandate” (paralleled by Mt 28:19-20 & Lk 24:46-48).
This is an imperative command from Christ to His Apostles to preach the Gospel to the whole world.
This same apostolic mission applies, especially, to the Apostles’ successors, the bishops in communion with Peter’s successor, the Pope.
But this mission extends further: the whole “Church was founded to spread the kingdom of Christ over all the earth for the glory of God the Father, to make all men partakers in redemption and salvation.….
Every activity of the mystical body with this in view goes by the name of ‘apostolate;’ the Church exercises it through all its members, though in various ways.
In fact, the Christian vocation is, of its nature, a vocation to the apostolate as well.
In the organism of a living body no member plays a purely passive part, sharing in the life of the body it shares at the same time in its activity.
The same is true for the body of Christ, the Church: ‘the whole body achieves full growth in dependence on the full functioning of each part’ (Eph 4:16).
Between the members of this body there exists, further, such a unity and solidarity (cf. Eph 4:16), that a member who does not work at the growth of the body to the extent of his possibilities must be considered useless both to the Church and to himself.
“In the Church there is diversity of ministry but unity of mission.
To the apostles and their successors Christ has entrusted the office of teaching, sanctifying, and governing in his name and by his power.
But the laity are made to share in the priestly, prophetical, and kingly office of Christ; they have therefore, in the Church and in the world, their own assignment in the mission of the whole people of God.” (Vatican II, Apostolicam actuositatem, 2).
It is true that God acts directly on each person’s soul through grace, but it must also be said that it is Christ’s will that men should be an instrument or vehicle of salvation for others.
Vatican II also teaches this: “On all Christians, accordingly, rests the noble obligation of working to bring all men throughout the whole world to hear and accept the divine message of salvation”.
The second verse in this Gospel teaches that, as a consequence of the proclamation of the Good News, faith and Baptism are indispensable pre-requisites for attaining salvation.
Conversion to the faith of Jesus Christ should lead directly to Baptism, which confers on us, “the first sanctifying grace, by which original sin is forgiven, and which also forgives any actual sins there may be; it remits all punishment due for these sins; it impressed on the soul the mark of the Christian; it makes us children of God, members of the Church and heirs to heaven, and enables us to receive the other sacraments” (St Pius X Catechism, 553).
Baptism is absolutely necessary for salvation, as we can see from these words of the Lord.
But physical impossibility of receiving the rite of Baptism can be replaced either by martyrdom (called, therefore, “baptism of blood”) or by a perfect act of love of God and contrition, together with an at least implicit desire to be baptized: this is called “baptism of desire”. NBC Mark 240
Regarding infant Baptism, St Augustine taught that “the custom of our Mother the Church of infant Baptism, is in no way to be rejected or considered unnecessary; on the contrary, it is to be believed on the ground that it is a tradition from the Apostles”.
The new Code of Canon Law also stresses the need to baptize infants: “Parents are obliged to see that their infants are baptized within the first few weeks.
As soon as possible after the birth, indeed for their child, and to be themselves duly prepared for it”. NBC Mark 200
The Lord’s ascension into heaven and His sitting at the right hand of the Father is the sixth article of faith confessed in the Creed.
Jesus Christ went up into heaven body and soul, to take possession of the Kingdom He won through His death, to prepare for us a place in heaven (cf. Rev 3:21) and to send the Holy Spirit to His Church (cf. St Pius X Catechism, 123).
To say that He “sat at the right hand of God” means that Jesus Christ, including His humanity, has taken eternal possession of heaven and, that being the equal of His Father in that He is God, He occupies the place of highest honor beside Him in His human capacity (cf. St Pius V Catechism, I, 7, 2-3). Already in the Old Testament the Messiah is spoken of as seated at the right hand of the Almighty, thereby showing the supreme dignity of Yahweh’s Anointed (cf. Ps 110:1).
The New Testament records this truth here and also in many other passages (cf. Eph 1:20-22; Heb 1:13).
As the St. Pius V Catechism adds, Jesus went up to heaven by His own power and not by any other. Nor was it only as God that He ascended, but also man.
Jesus went from death on Good Friday to life on Easter, and on Ascension, to glory at the right hand of the Father.
The Apostles went from the darkness of sin and ignorance to the light of the love of the Lord.
Soon they will be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost and to share the Good News with the world.
We hear, we participate, and we rejoice.
Glory to Almighty God as Jesus ascends in glory to the Father.