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The Ascension of the Lord (B)

Go out to the whole world. MARK 16:15–20

By June Renie

“Go out to the whole world; proclaim the good news to all creation. He who believes and is baptised will be saved; he who does not believe will be condemned…” (Mk 16:16).

This is referred to as The Great Commission. Jesus speaks these words to His disciples as He prepares to ascend to His Father; His earthly mission having been fulfilled.

From a biblical perspective, the Feast of the Ascension appears to be more about the disciples being commissioned by the resurrected Jesus to go out and preach the gospel, than it is about Jesus who, having fulfilled His earthly mission, returns to His Father.

This commissioning was His last instructions to His disciples; they were entrusted with the mission of the Church, then in formation, to take the Good News and be witnesses to the gospel.

They were to share what they received and speak of what they had seen and heard. They were to be witnesses to the resurrected Jesus and this “preaching” baton is to be passed from generation to generation to the end of time. Today this baton is in our hands.

John 15:16 speaks of Jesus commissioning His disciples. “…I chose you; and I commissioned you to go out and to bear fruit…” We recall that at the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry, He called 12 persons to leave everything and follow Him as His disciples.

The process is therefore that we are first called, then chosen and finally commissioned to bear fruit for the Kingdom. Each of us is called; of the called many are chosen and the chosen commissioned each to his own commissioning.

To the disciples, this must have seemed an enormous and impossible task.  At first they were commissioned, “go…to the lost sheep of the House of Israel and proclaim that the kingdom of Heaven is close at hand.”

Now the commission is enlarged, they are to go out to the whole world and “proclaim the good news… to all creation”. Creation would include all of mankind; Gentiles and Jews and the good news of the gospel is the offer of forgiveness of sins and of eternal life.

Like the disciples, many of us have experienced this impossibility standing before God in our puny selves. At times like these, I encourage myself to take the first step forward.

As disciples, we must remain in relationship and act in the name of Jesus. We do not listen to diminishing spirits or the opinions of the world but rather to what Jesus is saying to us e.g., Noah went on to build his Ark as did Mother Teresa, to the poorest of the poor.

“He who believes and is baptised will be saved; he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mk 16:16). The promise is that those who believe the gospel and renounce the devil, the world and the flesh shall be saved through Christ from their sins.

Baptism in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is the initiating rite through which we become believers. It is an important act of belief in the Lord Jesus. Here the emphasis is on belief versus unbelief. The context is unambiguous, He who believes and remains in relationship i.e., connected to the vine, will be saved; he who does not believe will be condemned.

“These are the signs that will be associated with believers: in my name they will cast out devils; they will have the gift of tongues …they will lay hands on the sick and they shall recover” (Mk 16:17).

Healing the sick was an important part of Jesus’ earthly ministry. Therefore, in going out to the whole world, His disciples were to be concerned, not only with the condition of the spirit or soul, but also with the person’s physical being. This is agape love.

The disciples, we are told, assumed the task to which they were commissioned. They “preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word by the signs that accompanied it” (Mk 16:20).

Mark 16:19 narrates “And so the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven: there at the right hand of God, he took his place.”


The gospel meditations for May are by June Renie, a retired law librarian and a graduate of the Catholic Bible Institute. She is an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist at St Anthony’s parish, Petit Valley.