Pope Francis: Ascension Reminds Us to Be Witnesses of the Risen Christ and Hope of Heaven
‘In the ascension of Jesus, the Crucified and Risen One, there is the promise of our participation in the fullness of life with God,’ the Holy Father said May 8.
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis commemorated the Solemnity of the Ascension of Jesus into heaven by reminding the faithful of their duty to be witnesses of the Gospel every day of the week, in all areas of life — not just on Sundays.
“We must carry this witness every week: Christ is with us; Christ has gone up into heaven and is with us. Christ is alive,” the Pope said during his May 8 Regina Caeli address to the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square.
Citing the words of Jesus in the day’s Gospel taken from Luke, the Pope explained how the apostles were “witnesses” of Christ’s death, resurrection and, now, ascension; indeed, they returned to Jerusalem and joyfully testified about the risen Christ, in whose name they would preach conversion and “repentance, for the forgiveness of sins.”
The Pope said this witness — “made not only with words, but also with daily life” — should go beyond church on Sunday. Rather, it should extend throughout the entire week in our “homes, offices, schools, in places of entertainment, in hospitals, in prisons, in homes for the elderly, in places crowded with immigrants, in the city’s peripheries.”
Pope Francis centered his address on the Ascension, which commemorates Jesus ascending into heaven 40 days after his resurrection from the dead. While this feast technically falls on a Thursday, many countries transfer the celebration to the following Sunday.
“We contemplate the mystery of Jesus who left our earthly space in order to enter in the fullness of God’s glory, bringing with him our humanity,” the Pope said.
He reflected on the reaction of the disciples, who had previously witnessed Jesus being rejected by Jerusalem, “Judas’ betrayal, Peter’s denial, the dispersal of the disciples and the violence of a power” that left them feeling threatened.
“From that day, for the apostles and for every disciple of Christ, it was possible to live in Jerusalem, and in every city of the world, even in those most troubled by injustice and violence,” he said. This is because every inhabitant of every city can turn his or her gaze upward “with hope.”
“Jesus, God, is true man; with his human body, he is in heaven: And this is our hope, our anchor, and we are firm in this hope if we look to heaven.”
“In this heaven lives that God who has revealed such closeness as to take the face of a man, Jesus of Nazereth,” the Pope continued. “And he remains always God-with-us” — that is, Emmanuel — “and he never leaves us alone.”
“In the ascension of Jesus, the Crucified and Risen One, there is the promise of our participation in the fullness of life with God.”
Jesus assures the disciples that, in making this announcement and giving this testimony, we will be clothed in the Holy Spirit, Francis explained.
“Here lies the secret of this mission: the presence among us of the Risen Lord, who with the gift of the Spirit continues to open our minds and our hearts, to proclaim his love and mercy even in the most resistant areas of our cities.”
“The Holy Spirit is the real architect of the manifold testimony that the Church and every baptized [person] make in the world.” For this reason, we should not neglect to gather together “in prayer to praise God and to invoke the gift of the Spirit.”
After leading the crowds in the Regina Caeli prayer, Pope Francis extended his “cordial greetings” to all who work in communications, acknowledging this Sunday’s 50th World Day of Social Communications.
“I hope that the way we communicate in the Church always has a clear evangelical style, a style which combines truth and mercy,” he said.
Francis greeted the tens of thousands of people who took part in this year’s March for Life in Rome, many of whom had made their way to St. Peter’s Square at the end of the morning march.
Pope Francis then went on to acknowledge Mother’s Day — celebrated May 8 in many countries — and led the crowds in the Hail Mary for all mothers.
“We remember with gratitude and affection all mothers: those who are today in [St. Peter’s] Square, our mothers, those who are among us and those who have gone to heaven, entrusting them to Mary, the Mother of Jesus.”