Pope Francis
The Ascension of the Lord
Regina Caeli – 1st June 2014

The Acts of the Apostles recounts this episode, the final separation of the Lord Jesus from his disciples and from this world (cf. Acts 1:2-9). The Gospel of Matthew, however, reports Jesus’ mandate to his disciples: the invitation to go out, to set out in order to proclaim to all nations his message of salvation (cf. Mt 28:16-20). “To go” or, better, “depart” becomes the key word of today’s feast: Jesus departs to the Father and commands his disciples to depart for the world.

Jesus departs, he ascends to Heaven, that is, he returns to the Father from whom he had been sent to the world. He finished his work, thus, he returns to the Father. But this does not mean a separation, for he remains forever with us, in a new way. By his ascension, the Risen Lord draws the gaze of the Apostles — and our gaze — to the heights of Heaven to show us that the end of our journey is the Father. He himself said that he would go to prepare a place for us in Heaven. Yet, Jesus remains present and active in the affairs of human history through the power and the gifts of his Spirit; he is beside each of us: even if we do not see him with our eyes, He is there! He accompanies us, he guides us, he takes us by the hand and he lifts us up when we fall down. The risen Jesus is close to persecuted and discriminated Christians; he is close to every man and woman who suffers. He is close to us all; he is here; the Lord is with us! Do you believe this? Then let’s say it together: The Lord is with us!

Jesus is present also through the Church, which He sent to extend his mission. Jesus’ last message to his disciples is the mandate to depart: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:19). It is a clear mandate, not just an option! The Christian community is a community “going forth”, “in departure”. More so: the Church was born “going forth”. And you will say to me: what about cloistered communities? Yes, these too, for they are always “going forth” through prayer, with the heart open to the world, to the horizons of God. And the elderly, the sick? They, too, through prayer and union with the wounds of Jesus.

And together with Jesus Mary our Mother accompanies us. She is already in the house of the Father, she is the Queen of Heaven and this is how we invoke her during this time; as Jesus is with us, so too she walks with us; she is the Mother of our hope.

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