First Reading – Acts 1:1-11

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 47:2-3, 6-7, 8-9

Second Reading – Ephesians 1:17-23

Gospel – Mark 16:15-20

For most diocese in the United States, this Seventh Sunday of Easter is the Solemnity of the Ascension, when the Church commemorates Jesus’ ascension into heaven after forty days of accompaniment with his disciples after the resurrection.

On this feast day, I am always struck by the way the readings point to an outward-looking obligation for Jesus’ disciples. The first reading, which is the very opening of the Acts of the Apostles, stresses that Jesus asks the disciples to remain in Jerusalem, but notably only for a set amount of time (until Pentecost). After that time, though, they are further exhorted “to be my witnesses…throughout the ends of the earth.”

Mark’s account of the ascension is even more direct on this point. Immediately before Jesus leaves, he tells his followers to “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” The expectation is that they will show the power of the Gospel as they “drive out demons;” they will connect with others and spread the message in new places when they “speak new languages,” and they will transform and heal when they “lay hands on the sick.” That’s a whole lot of responsibilities to bring to every creature across the whole world, and the disciples are being sent out to do exactly this.

Looking back at Luke’s description of the ascension in Acts, the question from the “men dressed in white garments” takes on a new dimension that underscores this message. After watching Jesus ascend into heaven, the disciples remain transfixed by what they have seen, prompting these messengers to ask, “Why are you standing there looking at the sky?” In the larger context of how this story fits with the rest of the resurrection appearances, this seems like a pointed question that carries the undertone of a more incredulous query: “Don’t you know there is work to be done?”

From this perspective, I think it is fitting that we are celebrating the Solemnity of the Ascension on Mother’s Day in the United States. More than any one group, mothers are always the ones who seem to know when there is work to be done and who immediately do what whatever it takes to get it done. No mother would be caught staring at an empty sky when they know there are people in need!

I think we can therefore see mothers as models of discipleship on this Ascension Sunday. They are the ones who selflessly pour themselves out for their children and communities, exactly as Jesus asks his disciples to do, and they are the ones who get down to business right away, showing us what it means to answer the call.

Hopefully, we can show a little more appreciation for mothers today, and learn something about the way we are called to take the good news Jesus has given us throughout the ends of the earth.