And Jesus said to the disciples, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and proclaimed the good news everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it.
In the today’s gospel, the last moments of Our Lord’s earthly sojourn had arrived. In the last six verses of the present closing chapter of the Gospel according to St. Mark, we have Christ’s appearance to the eleven apostles after his resurrection, their apostolic commission, Christ’s Ascension to the right hand of the Father, and the apostles carrying out their commission aided by miraculous powers from God.
The beginning of today’s gospel mentions Jesus said to the eleven. We understand well the eleven means the apostles without Judas. It was so unfortunate that Judas took his own life without waiting long enough to see the risen Jesus as Peter did. It is hard to tell what would happen if Judas had just stayed in his pain for a little while and met Jesus again. Impatience, particularly our impatience to remain in existential anguish, may cost us heavily.
Unlike St. Luke, who in his gospel and Acts mentioned the Ascension took place from the Mount of Olives, St. Mark did not tell us where it took place. It could be outside the city of Jerusalem. Before his Ascension, Jesus commissioned the eleven apostles to go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. It is the commissioning of the carrying on the heritage of Jesus’ mission. Christ had come as the prophets of the Old Testament had foretold for the salvation of all men and women so now he gives the same mission to his apostles, and necessary also to their successors, because they could not and did not fulfill his command in their lifetime. Through baptism, we are the successors of the apostles and thus we share the same mission as well. How? We do it simply by making an effort to become the kind of person God the Father made us to be. We do it by making an effort to become the kind of person Jesus teaches us to be. We do it simply by making an effort to be the kind of person the Holy Spirit inspires to be.
Jesus then talks about those who believe would be saved and those who don’t would be condemned. Persons who accept the story of Christ, which is also the Christian message, and receives baptism which incorporates him/her in the body of Christ his Church, is on the road to heaven though he/she still has some essential duties to perform to get there.
On the other hand, persons who is offered the knowledge of Christ with proofs of authenticity and truth, but deliberately refuse to accept Christ and Christianity, is refusing eternal life.
The miraculous powers promised by Christ can be seen as the life radiates from Christ’s words and has been doing so for twenty centuries. His words provides an answer to every spiritual question, find balm for every wound and a remedy for every evil.
Because the apostles saw Christ ascends into heaven and were assured of his help with no human power or means they undertook to evangelize the whole world. Christ who ascended into heaven gives light to our mind, warmth to our hearts and is the source of continual life to our souls. Christ awaits the homecoming of each one of us.
Let us the learn to seek the things that are above, and mind the things that are above and not the things that are upon the earth (Colossians 3:1-2). Amen.