As we prepare to celebrate the Ascension of our Lord, and keeping in mind that we are about 10 days away from Pentecost, it is a great opportunity to reflect upon the mission that Christ gave to His Church.
At the end of his recent trip to the Holy Land, Pope Francis explained in a homily during Mass celebrated in the Upper Room that: “Here, Jesus shared the Last Supper with the Apostles; where, after his resurrection, he appeared in their midst; where the Holy Spirit descended with power upon Mary and the disciples. Here the Church was born, and was born to go forth.”
“The Church, in her going forth, preserves the memory of what took place here; the Spirit, the Paraclete, reminds her of every word and every action, and reveals their true meaning,” the pope continued.
Pope Francis touched upon two of the essential marks of the Church’s identity and mission while in the Upper Room: Service and the Eucharist!
He spoke of how Jesus washed the feet of the disciples in the Upper Room at the Last Supper, offering an example of “welcoming, accepting, loving and serving one another.”
He recounted how Jesus celebrated the first Eucharist with his disciples, and continues to be present in the Eucharist throughout the centuries: “In every Eucharistic celebration Jesus offers himself for us to the Father, so that we too can be united with him, offering God our lives, our joys, and our sorrows, offering everything as a spiritual sacrifice.”
“How much love and goodness has flowed from the Upper Room! How much charity has gone forth from here, like a river from its source, beginning as a stream and then expanding and becoming a great torrent,” he remarked. ”All the saints drew from this source; and hence the great river of the Church’s holiness continues to flow: from the Heart of Christ, from the Eucharist and from the Holy Spirit.”
At the end of this Holy Season of Easter, we celebrate Pentecost Sunday, which is recognized as the beginning of the Church which Christ established in order to be the “sacrament of communion”, the external sign of communion with God and with each other that brings about what it signifies.
The Church is meant to be a visible witness of communion with God and with each other and is also the means by which God has chosen to achieve that communion.
The Lord who gave us this great commission to carry out his mission also taught us by word and example that this mission of bringing the world into communion with God and with each other would not be easy. He told us there would be opposition.
To help us overcome the devil and all those who will try to interfere with our fidelity to Christ, Christ promised a great gift. As He was ascending to heaven, He told the disciples to return to the Upper Room and pray for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, which they received on Pentecost Sunday – the day the Church was born!
The Holy Spirit has been given to the Church to help us accomplish the very mission for loving unity that Jesus entrusted to us. As we get ready to celebrate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the first disciples, we ask Him to come and fill our hearts and enkindle in us the fire of His love.