The Final Act
April 25, 2020
Saturday of the Second Week of Easter
He said to them, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned. These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages. They will pick up serpents [with their hands], and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” So then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them, was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God. But they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.
Opening Prayer: Lord God, you are the Lord of all creation. Everything I see belongs to you, and yet you authorize me to preach in your name. Grant me the zeal and inner strength to be a fearless witness for you. Inflame in me the desire to “go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature!”
1. Go into the Whole World: The great commission given by Jesus is universal in scope. No corner of our planet is exempt from his mandate to proclaim the Gospel. “The whole world” must receive the Good News. “Speaking new languages” will be necessary, so that God’s love and mercy can be “preached everywhere.” Perhaps what is most surprising, however, is Jesus’s call to proclaim the Gospel to every creature. The great St. Francis of Assisi understood that because all creation comes from God, it should lead us back to God. Pope Francis comments in his encyclical Laudato Si’, “Just as happens when we fall in love with someone, whenever he [St. Francis] would gaze at the sun, the moon, or the smallest of animals, he burst into song, drawing all other creatures into his praise. He communed with all creation, even preaching to the flowers, inviting them ‘to praise the Lord, just as if they were endowed wi th reason.’”
2. St. Mark the Evangelist: St. Mark, whose feast we celebrate today, was not only one of the four Gospel writers. He was also a man of the Church. In the first reading today, St. Peter, head of the Catholic Church, mentioned him affectionately by name: “My son, Mark.” Tradition has it that St. Mark leaned heavily on St. Peter when writing his Gospel account. Peter’s confession of faith in Jesus–“You are the Christ”–figures centrally in Mark’s Gospel. Mark is also mentioned in the letters of St. Paul. “Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is helpful to me in the ministry” (2 Timothy 4:11). St. Mark later became Bishop of Alexandria, a sign of his total devotion to the spouse of Christ, the Church.
3. Seated on High: In yesterday’s Gospel reading, “Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples.” In today’s reading, Jesus “was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God.” He has a new seat, a new task to fulfill. The Catechism assures us in section 1067 that the Ascension is part of the Paschal mystery—Passion and Death, Resurrection, and Ascension. These can never be separated. “The lifting up of Jesus on the cross signifies and announces his lifting up by his Ascension into heaven, and indeed begins it” (CCC 662). The Ascension–which we will properly celebrate in a few weeks–does not mean Christ’s absence. Hebrews 7:25 promises us that he now lives to make intercession for us. And today’s passage assures us that “the [ascended] Lord worked with them.”
Conversing with Christ: Lord Jesus, your being in heaven makes me want to get there too! And I know you have gone ahead to prepare a place for me. Teach me to be a fearless apostle, like St. Mark, so that I can help bring others along!
Resolution: Lord, today, by your grace, I will take some time to read from the Gospel according to St. Mark.
For Further Reading: Take a look at the first chapters of the Acts of the Apostles in order to see how the story continued after the Ascension, or read the poem “God’s Grandeur” by Gerard Manley Hopkins as an aid to praising God’s beauty in creation.