In many ways the Solemnity of the Ascension could be described as the feast of the multiplication of the presence of Jesus. The risen and ascended Lord is not only present in the Church but he is present TO and IN each one of us. It is vital that we should personalise the Ascension. Do not push and confine the Lord’s presence, power and activity solely on to ‘the Church’. Make a careful reading of TODAY’S SECOND LESSON [EPHESIANS 4: 1 – 13]. There we see that “his gifts were that some should be apostles .. prophets .. evangelists .. pastors .. teachers …… for the work of ministry .. building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God. …. mature .. to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.”

In addition I suggest we also reflect on Paul’s opening words – “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” The risen and ascended Lord walks with each one of us so that we may all recognise and accept our calling to be involved in the ministry of building up the whole Body.

In TODAY’S GOSPEL [MARK 16: 15 – 20] we are told that “they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them.” Now, TODAY’S FIRST READING [ACTS 1: 1 – 11] tells us that “you shall be my witnesses … to the end of the earth.” As those first disciples, with maturity, gradually dispersed all over the earth. the Lord worked with each one of them as they built up the body according to the measure of Christ’s stature.

It follows then, that after the Ascension Jesus’ presence was not confined to Jerusalem. Rather, it went with each individual witnessing disciple as, in obedience to the Lord’s command, they went “forth (to) make all nations my disciples … everywhere.” They accepted Jesus presence with them – “be assured, I am with you always, to the end of time.” (see Matthew 27: 19 & 20). This commission is given concrete expression in today’s Gospel extract which proclaims that “they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it.”

At the outset of this reflection we suggested that the Ascension could be called the feast of the multiplication of the Lord’s presence. It is, therefore, valuable for us to recall Matthew’s record (14: 13 – 21) of Jesus feeding the five thousand. In our present context these verses are worth reflecting on. See how {i} Jesus tells the disciples not to send them away but to give them something yourselves. Then {ii} the disciples protest that they have limited resources – all we have here. But {iii} the Lord says let me have them. Finally, {iv} at the end of the account we discover that “the scraps left over, which they picked up, were enough to fill twelve big baskets.” It is important for us to

know that this miracle is, in great detail, recorded not only by Matthew but also by the other three versions of the Gospel. {see also Mk.6: 31 – 44, Lk 9: 12 – 17, Jn 6: 1 – 14}. There were twelve disciples and there were twelve baskets. However, John’s version adds two important specifics. Firstly, that Jesus instructed “his disciples, ‘collect the pieces left over, so that nothing may be lost’. This they did ….” Secondly, we are told that “when the people saw THE SIGN Jesus had performed, the word went round, …”

We do not need to be well-known scripture scholars to see the connection between the multiplication of Jesus’ presence and the multiplication of the loaves. As the original witnesses, each with their own basket dispersed all over the earth, they took with them the greatest of all the signs of Jesus’ presence ….. and the word continues to go round.

I am quite sure not all of us have spoken in tongues or lifted up serpents but HOW we celebrate Eucharist is the powerful starting point of how we participate in the mature building up of the body of Christ. From our Eucharists we go out and produce the presence of Christ all over our own little worlds. This is what Jesus asked us to do at the moment of his ascension. We do it with, in and through the faith we have that he works with us and confirms the message. We help to multiply the presence of Christ in our world.

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