Today, we hear Jesus tell his apostles, and us, to ‘“Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.”’ And so the apostles did – with great joy. It seems they had heard their master and they understood His desire. It would be ten days later that the Holy Spirit would descend upon them and endow them with the strengths and wisdom needed; but as Christ ascended they knew what they must do.
Two points came to me as I reflected on this question:
- 1) What type of life do I need to live to follow as a follower of the apostles?
- 2) What type of apostolic action am I called give?
In the Ascension we are witness to the elevation of humanity to the divine. Christ not only ascends back to Heaven but takes with Him His body. This should point out to us that we too are meant for Heaven – completely soul and body; our lives should reflect this fact. St. Paul reminds us of this when he writes to the Colossians: ‘If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.’ So, though we are born of this reality and we journey through it – we have another home – we are citizens of another kingdom and it is up to us to live a life as a member of Heaven. Each of us needs to live our lives as citizens of Heaven – we need to continually turn ourselves from a life lived in the flesh and reach for a life of sanctity.
But along with this important and daunting task is how we are to witness to the gospel during our journey. What type of apostolic action are we to follow. Living a life of a citizen of heaven has mostly to do with an internal struggle – witnessing to the good news is more an external activity. At first glance these seem to be two different actions – but are they? By our witness of living a life of a citizen of heaven we are, in fact, fulfilling our commission to proclaim the gospel. The activities of the heavenly hosts (our fellow citizens) are both adoration and celebration of God; and of constant interaction with us – by intercessory prayer. Their upward actions of lifting our prayer and submitting them to Jesus, the great intercessor, is also a downward action of passing God’s blessings to us. We are strengthened by their intercession and their guidance; their looking to us down here brings yet another connection to heaven. They, in a special way allow Christ to return to us by helping us. To a degree they are putting into action what the angels spoke to those who witnessed the Ascension in Luke: ‘This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.’
Now, of course, the angels primarily spoke of the final coming; but they also were speaking of our Lord’s constant and always present help through His Holy Spirit, His Blessed Mother, and the angels and saints – Christ is continually returning to us through them. He is ever present in our proclaiming the Good News. But just what is this action that we can participate in? We can better understand this action if we look at the Ascension narrative in Gospel of Luke: ‘Then he led them out as far as Bethany, raised his hands, and blessed them. As he blessed them he parted from them and was taken up to heaven.’ Christ left this world; physically left us; with His arms outstretched blessing His followers. Christ left us in the act of blessing and as the angels told those at the Ascension He will return the same way – blessing.
This is how we are to view our living a life of a citizen of Heaven while journeying through this existence. By our actions in living a holy life publically we are bringing to those around us the blessing of Christ. By our embracing the gospel and living a life in and of love we are helping those estranged from joy, happiness, and peace because they can see and hear and almost taste this joy that we have.
Brothers and sisters, we are constantly blessed by the return of Jesus through the actions of the Holy Spirit, Holy Mary, the angels and the saints – we need to pass this forward. Like our fellow citizens in heaven we need to participate in the same two way interaction. First by accepting the gifts of Christ and pass them to others through helping them receive God’s blessing and second by passing their needs upward through prayer. I don’t know about you but when I meet Christ in judgement and He asks whether I lived a life as a citizen of Heaven or of earth, I don’t want to admit that I hoarded His blessings.