I THOUGHT YOU SHOULD KNOW | As fruits of the great commission, we are called to make disciples of others

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The feast of the Ascension of Our Lord marks the transition between Jesus' earthly ministry and the early Church's ministry.

When the time came to depart this earth, Jesus turned over the ministry to the apostles, who were to be filled with the Holy Spirit on the coming feast of Pentecost.

God had given "all power in heaven and on earth" to the Crucified One, and Jesus in turn passes this authority to the apostles: "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you." He also extends this command to you and to me.

Under the influence of the Holy Spirit, the apostles recall His teachings and pass them along to other disciples. Their ministry of evangelization extends to the whole world. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the word of God will take root in the hearts of its hearers, transform them into disciples and make them, in turn, missionaries to the world.

As we hear the words of Jesus' great commission, we realize that we are fruits of that commission and, in turn, are to make disciples of others. In fact, all we have to do is to be faithful witnesses to the Good News. When others see the fruits of the Good News in our lives, they will be attracted then will lead others into the kingdom.

The most exciting challenge we have on this earth isn't just to earn a living but to help others become friends of Jesus for all eternity. Friendship with Jesus will make our lives truly fruitful, and this friendship will help others know Him. Every day we're evangelists for Jesus.

The first reading, from the Acts of the Apostles, reflects the early Church's understanding of the meaning of the Ascension. The Church emphasized the importance of preparing for the coming baptism of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Jesus tells the apostles that they will be baptized in the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, with all the gifts of the Holy Spirit being poured out upon them.

Thank God that we have all received the fullness of the Holy Spirit in baptism. However, that doesn't mean we have received a release of all the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

This year, we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the breakout of the baptism of the Holy Spirit in the Catholic Church in modern times. With the release of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we receive an outpouring of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, to change our lives and to change the lives of those to whom we witness the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

In 1967, seven college students making a retreat at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh experienced the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This spread rapidly to every continent on the earth. Today more than 100 million Catholics have had this experience. On the feast of Pentecost in 2008, Pope Benedict expressed the wish that all Catholics would experience the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

This energized the early Church. Today, many Catholics come into this experience by making a Life in the Spirit Seminar, in which people who have experienced the baptism of the Holy Spirit teach all about this baptism and pray with individuals to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

This is what Jesus meant when, in the first reading, He tells His disciples, "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."

Let's face it, we live in a pagan and agnostic culture in which belief in God is persecuted, and sensuality is glorified. To allow the gifts of the Holy Spirit to break out in your life will shake up and wake up the secularistic world around you. When secularists witness the gifts of the Holy Spirit in your life, they will be stunned and confused, just as in the early Church.

However, when people see the gifts of the Spirit alive in you, they will be attracted to these gifts, which will give new meaning and direction to their lives. The Holy Spirit at work in your life will change their lives.

Each day we should hunger to make disciples for the kingdom. God will do the work, if we do the witnessing. Do you think that your relatives were smart enough to make you holy? Of course not: They just witnessed to Jesus, His death and resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit.

Your desire to spend an eternity in heaven with the Holy Trinity and with all the angels and saints should spur you to share this hope with as many people as possible. 

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