Pope Francis prays the Regina Coeli with pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square on the feast of the Ascension, and reflects on the liberating love of Jesus who never leaves us as He ascends to the Father.
By Devin Watkins
Though traditionally celebrated on Thursday, many nations mark the Feast of the Ascension of Jesus Christ on the Sunday before Pentecost, including in Italy.
On Ascension Sunday, Pope Francis prayed the Eastertide Marian prayer of the Regina Coeli, and reflected on the day’s Gospel (Lk 24:46-53).
He noted that Jesus, in His final apparition to the disciples, did two things before ascending to God the Father: “He announces the gift of the Spirit, and then He blesses the disciples.”
Gift of the Spirit
Pope Francis said Jesus was not abandoning humanity as He goes to the Father. Rather, He promises to send the Holy Spirit, who “will accompany them, guide them, support them in their mission, defend them in spiritual battles.”
“In this too, we see Jesus’ love for us: His is a presence that does not seek to limit our freedom. On the contrary, He leaves space for us, because true love always generates a closeness that does not stifle, but which makes us agents.”
The Pope said Jesus’ ascension allows Him to become close to all humanity in the Holy Spirit, instead of remaining beside only a few people.
“The Holy Spirit makes Jesus present in us, beyond the barriers of time and space, to make us His witnesses in the world,” he said.
Blessing of God
The second action Jesus does before His ascension is to “bless the apostles,” which the Pope said is a “priestly gesture”.
“The Gospel wants to tell us that Jesus is the great priest of our life. Jesus ascends to the Father to intercede on our behalf, to present our humanity to Him. Thus, before the eyes of the Father, with the humanity of Jesus, there are and always will be our lives, our hopes, our wounds.”
Pope Francis added that Jesus also goes to prepare a place for us with God the Father in Heaven.
Loving others and praying for them
Our response to Jesus’ blessing, said the Pope, should be to be witnesses of the Gospel and to love others with the same kind of love we receive from God.
“Let us ask ourselves if we really are witnesses of the Gospel; and also, if we are capable of loving others, leaving them free and making room for them.”
Pope Francis concluded by inviting all Christians to pray for one another and serve them instead of our own interests.
“Let us learn intercessory prayer, by interceding for the hopes and sufferings of the world, for peace,” he said. “And let us bless with our eyes and our words those we meet every day!”