Sunday, May 28
The Ascension of the Lord
Matthew 28: 16 – 20
The eleven disciples went to Galilee,
to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them.
When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted.
Then Jesus approached and said to them,
“All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
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.
And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
Since Easter we have been playing, “Now you see me; Now you don’t.” with Jesus.” He rose and then he was gone again. He appears to different people and different groups and then he is gone again.
I always wondered what was he doing during that time. Where was Jesus when he wasn’t appearing to people? I would have wanted to keep him with me every single minute. I would have said I am not ready for you to leave me alone. I would have bombarded him with questions: What about this? What about that? What should I do if…? I would have hung on his every word and took lots of notes.
When I look at the things he said at the various appearances, I so resonate with the disciples.
“Go tell the others…” We are always being sent out to proclaim that Jesus has risen. We are being sent to spread the message… to be Jesus in the world.
“Thomas, put your hand into my wounds…” Was Jesus telling them and us that we must be in touch with the suffering of the world? Is he asking us to step into the suffering of the world with the same compassion and mercy that he showed? The suffering of others is the suffering of Jesus.
Then my favorite invitation of Jesus is, “Let’s eat.” And they sat down to share a meal. Continually Jesus calls us to the table. He calls us to come and eat the Bread of Life. He knew we would get hungry over and over again. Hungry for wisdom, hungry for courage, hungry for faith, hungry for community.
Do you sometimes feel that now you see Jesus and everything seems just right? Then you don’t see him and you begin to doubt or waiver in the faith or just drift into complacency? Today Jesus is telling them and us that he is going back to his Father (leaving again). It is the day we remember as we celebrate the feast of the Ascension.
With this gospel passage we have come full circle from the empty tomb of Easter. When Mary Magdalene saw Jesus outside the tomb he gave her a message, “Go and tell the others that I have risen and I will meet them in Galilee”. Today we find them in Galilee. They did what Jesus had told them to do. I am drawn to the verse: “When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted.” I don’t know about you, but this is the story of my life. I try do what he taught us to do. I believe in Jesus. I worship Jesus, but at times, I also doubt Jesus or struggle with faith. I drift and at times seem to take Jesus for granted.
Read the passage carefully. Jesus does this most amazing thing before he leaves. Knowing that the disciples are weak, knowing that sometimes they will fail and doubt, he also knows that they are faithful. Our faithfulness is what he focuses upon. Jesus gives them a mission. Yes, in their vulnerability, in their strength and in their weakness, in their faithfulness and in their sin, he gives them a mission, “Go and make disciples of all nations.”
We are gathered, not in Galilee, but at St. Brigid of Kildare Parish in Dublin. We, like the disciples, come amazed, fearful, doubtful, and hungry. In the midst of our vulnerability we, too, are given a mission. You and I have been commissioned to go and tell the others that indeed Jesus is risen. Jesus lives. We receive this commissioning at the end of every Mass. Go, the Mass is ended. Go, you have been fed by Word and the Bread of Life. Go you have been strengthened by the faith community gathered together. Go, and live as believers. Go, and share the good news.
Like the disciples, we are sent with the same reassurance that we do not go alone. We have a faith community and we have a promise, “I am with you always.” How much more do we need to get on with it, to get on with telling others the good news?
There is a legend that grew around Jesus’ Ascension into heaven. It seems that when Jesus arrived in heaven, an angel greeted him. The angel asked Jesus – “What did you do on earth to ensure that your mission and work would continue?” Jesus simply said, “I entrusted it all to a small band of men and women.” The angel stopped and looked dumbfounded. “You what?” Jesus repeated what he had said: “I entrusted it all to a small band of men and women.” The angel said, “What if they fail?” Without hesitation Jesus responded, “They will not fail.” With Jesus’ faith in us — we will not fail.
Sister Teresa Tuite, OP