Life After the Ascension


“God does not call us to a mission without giving us what we need to accomplish it.”


Right before the Ascension in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus says something intriguing before leaving:  I am with you always.

An interesting way to say goodbye. I am with you always. Seems a big contradictory, doesn’t it?

Jesus has spent three years with these men, followed after His Passion with another 40 days of final instruction. And then He leaves. You can’t help but wonder what the Apostles thought. Take us with you, Lord?

After all, it seems like the work has been accomplished. Jesus Christ has saved us from sin. He has opened the gates of Heaven. So let’s all go home.

What had those forty days been like? Acts of the Apostles doesn’t tell us much about them. The Apostles must have had lots of questions for him. It was a time of final instruction and preparation for them. Just as Jesus prepared for his public ministry with 40 days in the desert, the Apostles are given these 40 days of preparation for the task they’re about to undertake – the extension of Jesus’ public ministry through the life of the Church.

This is precisely why He leaves them behind. There is still work to be done.

He doesn’t leave without giving them a few things: a mission and a promise. They are to preach and baptize to the ends of the earth. But He will send the Holy Spirit, without Whom the work is impossible. He promises them power: the same power that had been given to Him.

Often when we focus on the Great Commission, we begin with Matthew 28:19: Go therefore… But we need to begin with verse 18: All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me…

God does not call us to a mission without giving us what we need to accomplish it.

Jesus gives these eleven men an enormous mission. He is asking them to do something radical: to continue what he has done for three years, to continue the saving work of his public ministry, to bring the grace of salvation to the ends of the earth. He is asking them to witness to what they’ve seen and heard, and go and do even greater works than the ones they witnessed.

Yet, He is not sending them to do it on their own.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

Do we honestly believe this? Or perhaps we believe that the Apostles received the power, but that ended in the first century. Do we believe that we received that same Holy Spirit at our Confirmation? Confirmation, in the words of Pope Saint Paul VI, “perpetuates in the Church the grace of Pentecost.”

Christ seems to have left His Apostles behind at His Ascension. He left them behind for you: that you might share in the wonders of His public ministry, that you might be healed and saved, that you too may be His witness. Do we believe that? Do we act like we believe it?

If we believe it, we need to live like we believe it. We must be his witnesses – to our family, our friends, our coworkers, the stranger on the street. Let us speak of what He has done for us. This will require courage and creativity. Life after the Ascension was a life of mission. God had given the apostles the grace of being with Christ, and now they had to go out. He would give them the Spirit to make it possible, but it wouldn’t happen without courage.

You too have had moments of grace, where you have known Christ in a unique way. He’s given you certain gifts, “mountaintop” moments in prayer, or experiences of His healing, work, and power. Like the Apostles, now you’re called to go out. 

He has given us a mission. But He does not call us to a mission without giving us what we need to accomplish it.

Come, Holy Spirit!


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About the Author

Joannie Watson

Joan Watson was born and raised in Lafayette, Indiana, but college and graduate school took her to Virginia, Ohio, and Rome. After graduating from Christendom College with a B.A. in History and Franciscan University with a M.A. in Theology, she moved to Nashville, Tennessee to be part of the explosion of Catholic culture in the middle of the Bible Belt.

She has been blessed to work for Dr. Scott Hahn at the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology and the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia at Aquinas College. She is presently the Director of Adult Formation for the Diocese of Nashville. She also serves as the Associate Editor of Integrated Catholic Life.

When she’s not testing the culinary exploits of new restaurants or catching up on the latest BBC miniseries, she’s FaceTiming with her eight nephews and nieces and enjoying her role as coolest aunt. She likes gelato, bourbon, and the color orange.

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