Blog Arise and Shine (Mark 16:15-2/John 17:11-19) by Joel Stepanek Depending on where you celebrated Mass this past weekend, you either were watching Jesus ascend into heaven (Mark 16:15-2) or you were listening to Jesus’ prayer for the disciples (John 17:11-19). Regardless, one message should come through loud and clear from both readings: You are sent. At the end of that Mass, you were sent out as living tabernacles into the world. You were sent out to proclaim the Gospel. You were sent to be a living invitation to life in Christ. Jesus prays that his disciples would have the courage to go out and speak His message of life to the world. Jesus commands that the disciples proclaim the Gospel to the entire world before ascending into heaven. How well did you do? It is unlikely that any of us drove out demons, picked up a new language out of nowhere, or started playing around with snakes this past week (Mark 16:17-18), but did you glorify Christ by your life? What I am struck by in both of the Gospel possibilities this week is the idea that Christ allows us to minister in his name, and he works with us. In Mark 16:20, the NAB translation reads, “…they went forth and preached everywhere, the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs” (emphasis added). In the Gospel of John, in the great prayer Jesus offers on behalf of the disciples, he associates them with his mission, “As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world” (John 17:18). When was the last time you stopped to realize that you aren’t alone in ministry? When did you get struck with the incredible realization that you minister in the name of Christ, and in that name you should not fear? Too often, we can feel isolated and alone. We look up to the sky where Christ ascended and yell for him to return so he can give us a plan or mission statement more descriptive than, “make disciples of all nations.” Jesus walks with us and works through us; in fact, without Christ our ministry cannot be authentic because Christian ministry is not our own. You are merely in possession of what Christ owns – a steward of that mission. Yes, being a part of that mission assures us that we will confront adversity. Jesus tells his disciples in the Gospel of John that the world will hate them because the world hated Jesus. He gives hope before his ascension in the Gospel of Mark that no deadly thing or demon stands a chance against them, so long as they remain in him. On our own, yes, we will fail, burn out, and likely wind up in a corner weeping as we craft our resignation letter. In Christ, we have no need to fear because through his ascension we are assured our victory. In Christ, we can expect the same persecution but also the same triumph. In Jesus, our ministry is realized as true Christian ministry – not just a program or initiative. Perhaps, most importantly, when we stand in awe of the resignation with the prayer of Jesus still resonating in our ears, we realize that what we are doing is far bigger than ourselves. We are helping guide young people along that same path to ascension into heaven. We are in a world that may turn against us at any moment, but cannot harm what is eternally protected. We know we have the greatest job in the world, and we go forth to live the mission that Christ so succinctly gave us. Share the Gospel. Make disciples. Make Christ’s love known.