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HE WAS TAKEN UP INTO HEAVEN, AND SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, ThD
Homily of Thursday, Ascension Thursday, May 17, 2012
Acts 1:1-11, Ps. 46, Eph. 1:17-23, Mark 16:15-20


"So the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it" (Mark 16:19-20).


Today we celebrate the ascension of Jesus Christ into heaven. After giving his disciples the great commission to preach the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15), adding that "he who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned" (Mark 16:16), Jesus Christ "was taken up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God" (Mark 16:19). From that day on, he is seated at God's right hand in power and glory as the source of all human salvation. His death and resurrection give man forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation, when he believes in him. This is the means set up by God to save and divinize the human race. Those who believe in him will be saved. Those who do not believe in him will be condemned (Mark 16:16). Hence the great importance of the commission that Christ gave to his Church: "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to the every creature" (Mark 16:15 KJV).


From these words of Jesus comes the Church's mission. All salvation comes through the death on the cross of Jesus Christ, the only Son of God. "He who believes and is baptized will be saved" (Mark 16:16). How important it is, then, to try to preach Christ to every person. From there on, no one knows the ways in which this saving word will be successively handed on to ever new people by word of mouth, in writing, on the internet, etc. This is Christ's clear will, that every person be evangelized and given the chance to know and believe in him for the relief of the forgiveness of his sins, the removal of depressing guilt, and the clear assurance of eternal salvation. The Church's responsibility is clear. God gave her this commission, this mission to all the peoples of the world (Matt. 28:19). Just before ascending into heaven Jesus told his disciples, "You shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth" (Acts 1:8). They are to be the witnesses of this salvation.


With his death and resurrection Jesus' saving work on earth was completed. Now he could ascend into heaven and sit down in glory at the right hand of God and send forth from the Father the Holy Spirit upon the Church. "When Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God" (Heb. 10:12). The Church's work is to go out and preach this salvation everywhere, baptizing all who believe (Matt. 28:19). This is the main thrust and motivation behind the Church's mission to all peoples, and in accomplishing it she will also help the poor and those in need (Matt. 25:31-46). It is a mission of salvation, according the will of Christ. This is God's plan for the world's salvation.


We should never presume upon God's mercy and shirk our responsibility, which Christ gave to his Church, to preach the gospel to all the peoples of the earth for their salvation, for the forgiveness of their sins, and the removal of their guilt through their faith in the death of Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, on the cross. He served our sentence of punishment for our sins for us, and this is applied to us when we believe in him. "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned" (Mark 16:16). It is one thing to hope in God's mercy for those we have not yet been able to reach; but it is quite another thing to say that there is no need to evangelize them, because God in his mercy will save them in some other way. This latter attitude is to presume upon God's mercy, ignore his great commission (Matt. 28:19), and shirk our responsibility.

 

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