Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
The Ascension of the Lord we celebrate this Sunday used to be celebrated on a Thursday so that it would be exactly 40 days after Easter. For quite some time now, in the Archdiocese of Miami and in many other dioceses around the world, it has been transferred to Sunday so that a larger number of people may go to Mass to celebrate this important event that arguably brings to its consummation the mystery of the Incarnation in a way reminiscent of chapter 55 in the book of the prophet Isaiah.
The Eternal Word of God becomes flesh in the womb of the Virgin. He empties himself, as St. Paul states in the letter to the Philippians. He is gloriously risen. He returns to the bosom of the Most Holy Trinity bringing with Him the novelty of his glorified humanity, which is our common humanity.
This event is narrated in detail at the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles, the second volume of the work of St. Luke, the first reading for this Sunday.
The Gospel proclaimed this Sunday includes the great missionary mandate of the Lord at the conclusion of the Gospel according to St. Matthew.
In that brief fragment, the Lord Jesus utters four times the adverb “all.” He claims to have all the power. He commands His disciples to go to all nations and to teach all that He has taught. He promises to be with them all the days until the end of times.
From a purely semantic and grammatical point of view, it is obvious that the inclusion of the word “all”, is meant to add intensity to the command of the Lord.
Jesus Christ claims to have all the power. Indeed, He does. He has it. It is rightfully His because He is God. To Him belongs everything that exists. As St. Paul points out in the letter to the Colossians, everything was made through Him, in Him and for Him. There is no doubt whatsoever about His divinity because He is risen from the dead. Death has been defeated. It has no power over Him. He maintains His humanity, yet in Him our common human nature has been glorified. It is glorified humanity no longer constrained by time or space.
He has come to the world with a mission that will now be continued by His disciples, namely you and me. Through Baptism we have become His presence. We must go to all the world. The salvation offered to us in Christ is universal. It is meant for all. God has created everything that exists pure and simply out of love. He has created man, male and female, in His image and likeness, that is to say with a special capacity to participate in His own life. He desires that communion so much that he assumes our human nature. He is incarnate. He unites Himself to every single human being that was, is or will be, through our common human nature. To do the greatest possible good He could do for us, He submits to the power of death in solidarity with us. He rises, thus, destroying the power of death over human nature. His victory is the victory of human nature, accessible to all, even to those who crucified Him, even to those who do not know about Him. That is why He sends His disciples to proclaim His victory, His resurrection, so that all may come to know Him, experience His love, open their hearts to grace and, thus, participate of His victory.
This proclamation ought not to be a pure intellectual exercise, much less triumphalist or a quest for power. Neither is conversion. That is why the full message must be proclaimed. The disciples ought to teach everything He has taught. To be credible witnesses, they must live it themselves first. They must bear consistent witness with their lives, and with martyrdom, if necessary, to the events they announce, confessing that Jesus Christ is true God and true man by the way they live their humanity in all its dimensions, from the most intimate to the most public aspect of it. They are not sent to teach a moral code. From the fact of the Incarnation of the Eternal Word of God and His Resurrection, there follows a vision of the human person that must inform and transform the way we live our humanity, how we relate to our own bodies, how we relate to our sisters and brothers and how we relate to creation at large.
This mandate of course, can be carried out because of the promise of Christ. He is the guarantor and sponsor of this mission. He is with us until the end of times. Every single day, at every moment. He has not abandoned us and will never abandon His people. As St. Paul tells Timothy, even if we are unfaithful, He remains faithful because He cannot contradict Himself.
To live in the Risen Christ is possible on account of grace that is offered to us. The Latin American bishops reminded us in Aparecida that to have encountered Christ is the best thing that could have ever happened to us. The one who loves wishes good for the beloved. Therefore, to announce Him with our entire lives and when necessary, with words, ought to be our joy and our and happiness, because in doing so, we are heralds of true and lasting joy for our neighbors.
Fr. Roberto M. Cid