Father Leslie Hoppe, OFM

May 12: Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord

Wednesday, May 1, 2024


Acts 1:1-11; Ps 47:2-3, 6-7, 8-9; Eph 1:17-23; Mk 16:15-20

In a few weeks, graduation season will begin. Many young people from grammar schools to graduate schools are impatiently waiting for their graduation day.

Graduation is a bittersweet moment. Of course, the graduates are happy to complete an important phase of their education and are justly proud of their achievements. At the same time, they will be saying goodbye to friends with whom they shared their lives for several years to go to a new school or to begin their career. Although they promise each other to keep in touch, they know that the bonds of friendship will inevitably become weaker as they begin new and exciting chapters in their lives.

Jesus’ disciples likely had similar feelings as they witnessed the risen Jesus’ return to the Father after having completed his mission. Jesus gathered followers and prepared them to carry on his mission, but his disciples were slow to appreciate what Jesus’ mission really was.

As Christ was about to leave them, one of the disciples asked: “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” After all that Jesus had taught them, after Jesus’ death and resurrection, a disciple asked Jesus about the political future of the people of Israel.

In Jesus’ day, his homeland was a minor province of the Roman Empire. The disciples were hoping that Jesus would restore Israel’s political and economic standing in the world. They assumed that they would have important positions in that kingdom.

Jesus deflects their question by reminding them that one purpose of his time with them was to prepare them to continue his mission after he was gone: “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” The questions the disciples should have asked was about the mission they would undertake with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus’ mission was to proclaim God’s love for all people and God’s desire to be reconciled with them. The climactic moment in that mission took place as Jesus died on the cross.

God signaled his approval of Jesus’ life and death in service of his mission by raising him from the dead. Now it was time for Jesus to return to God. Of course, the disciples did not want Jesus to leave them. They kept looking at the sky, not wanting the moment to end, but their moment was about to come.

The time had come for the disciples’ “graduation.” They were called by Jesus to join him in proclaiming the good news. Jesus equipped them patiently and thoughtfully. Now, they were about to be sent out to the ends of the earth to make disciples of all nations.

The disciples were not the only ones to receive this mission. We, too, are to proclaim the good news by leading a life shaped by the ideals of Jesus Christ. A small number of evangelical Christians stress one element in today’s Gospel reading: the signs that will accompany the disciples in mission. During enthusiastic worship services, they speak in tongues, handle snakes and drink poison, believing that these actions testify to their faith. Most Christians, however, recognize that the most authentic and powerful testimony to Jesus is a life that finds its inspiration and direction in the ideals of the Gospel. 

Pope Francis reminds us of our calling to be missionary disciples. He noted that too many Catholics after attending Mass look like they have just come from a funeral. The Holy Father suggests that a joyful Christian is the best witness — the best missionary disciple.


  • scripture