(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Sunday celebrated the feast of the Ascension of Jesus to heaven, celebrated forty days after Easter.
Speaking to the faithful present in St. Peter’s Square for the Regina Caeli prayer, the Pope reflected on the reading from the Gospel of Matthew which presents us with the moment of the definitive departure of the Risen Lord from his disciples.
The scene, he said, is set in Galilee, the place where Jesus had called them to follow him and form the first nucleus of his new community. The disciples have gone through the "fire" of the Passion and Resurrection, and at the sight of the risen Lord, they bow down to him. Some of them however are still doubtful. It is to this frightened community, the Pope said, that Jesus leaves the immense task of evangelizing the world. He gives them this assignment ordering them to teach and to baptize in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Pope Francis said the ascension of Jesus to heaven represents the end of the Son’s mission and the beginning of the continuation of this mission by the Church.
From this moment, he pointed out, the presence of Christ in the world is mediated by his disciples, by those who believe in Him and announce Him. This mission, the Pope continued, will last until the end of history thanks to the daily assistance of the Risen Lord, who assures us that: “I am with you every day until the end of the world”.
The Pope said His presence gives strength to those who are persecuted, it gives comfort to those who are suffering, and it gives support to those in difficult situations.
The Ascension, he said, reminds us of Jesus’ help and of His Spirit in whom we can trust as we offer our Christian witness to the world. It explains to us why the Church exists: the Church exists in order to proclaim the Gospel.
And let us not forget, Pope Francis said, the joy of the Church in proclaiming the Gospel. He said that the Church is all baptized Christians and today we are invited to better understand better that God has given us great dignity and the responsibility of announce its message to the world, of making it accessible to humanity.
On this Ascension Day, the Pope said, as we turn our gaze to heaven, where Christ ascended and sits at the right hand of the Father, let us be strong, enthusiastic and courageous in our earthly journey, in our mission of witnessing and living the Gospel in every place.
We must be aware however, he continued, that this does not depend solely on our own strength, organizational skills and resources; only with the light and the strength of the Holy Spirit will we be able to effectively fulfill our mission of spreading Jesus' love and tenderness.
Pope Francis concluded asking the Virgin Mary to help us contemplate the heavenly goods which the Lord promises us, and become credible witnesses of his Resurrection, of true Life.