Every gift from a friend, is accompanied by a responsibility.
Today’s Gospel is the very last two paragraphs of St. Matthew’s gospel. It makes no direct reference to the Ascension, but it gives us some of the final instructions Jesus gave to his disciples before he took his leave of them. For Matthew and his community who put together this flavor of the Good News, Resurrection and Ascension were about the same experience. Let’s remember, that for the Matthian Community, the Old Testament was always a deliberate backdrop for the things that Jesus did and taught, because this Good News Community continually saw echoes from the Old Testament being resonated in Jesus, not only in His Words and Actions but in the places he visited. So, we will need to check out our curiosity as we go saunter through this passage along those lines…..we don’t want to miss anything!
As we look at the story, we notice that the disciples did what Jesus told them to do. He asked them to meet him on a mountain, (it does not say the name of the Mountain) and they did that. Let’s be mindful that in Old Testament Literature, Mountains were special places of Revelation, Instruction and even departure. Let’s keep in mind that the Community of Matthew, saw in Jesus, the new Moses!
Like any gathering of human beings, each had their own emotions prior to and during this final Meeting with the Risen Lord. Some of them bowed in reverence before him, while some of them still doubted. That’s consoling isn’t it? Some doubted!!!!!! Jesus didn’t seem to have any great problem with that, because he knew that when the Spirit would come, all of those doubts would be dealt with in a growing awareness of the new presence of Jesus with his ‘other self’, the Holy spirit. However, as at that time there were always doubts among the people hearing the message about Jesus!
The faces have changed, but the message remains the same…..look at people in our own times? Look at us as individuals! It would seem indeed, that Jesus was in a bit of a hurry to take his leave of them, so that the second part of the Father’s plan of salvation could get underway. Here we see Jesus getting right to the point at hand, this was not about pleasantries, it was about entrusting the Mission of teaching, preaching and healing to The New Israel-The Church, within the ongoing Mission, which will impel the Eleven, as they would get caught up within the Holy Spirit’s thrust of loving boldness, and universal outreach. The common dialect for all people is speaking the truth in love, which of course definitely presupposes, listening to the truth in humility. How can any person explicitly say that they ‘speak the truth in love’ without being fortified by a good solid dose of Humility? It would seem that this precious mixture of Humility mixed with Truth and blended in Love is the desired outcome.
The mission of the apostles was a simple one. It was to teach others all that he had taught them. Just as he asked his disciples to obey him, they were to ask that others should obey his directions and instructions also. Again, let’s not get caught up on rules in terms of obedience! Biblical obedience is holistic listening, then the doing part is the Mission. This is a bit like when a Doctor puts you on a course of antibiotics. The original sin was that of disobedience. The Spirit is the spirit of truth. One of the rules connected with antibiotics is that it is essential to complete the course. Some people begin to feel well after a few days, and they discontinue takings the tablets and, of course, their condition gets worse. In this case about our Christian Spirituality, we are on the Antibiotics all the time. The ‘lived economy’ of redemption and salvation must continue from generation to generation, until the end of time; and yes, we are not on our own, we are accompanied by the Christ of Faith till the New Heavens and the New Earth become one. With all the changes in the church and in society, the two things that have not changed are Jesus himself, and every word of his message.
The Message and the Messenger have never, and never will change. The Message is evergreen, for all times and seasons. People who are bothered about changes in the church today should be reminded that the only two things that matter have not changed at all. The way that we go about worship, and recognition of all the Baptized as sharers and bearers of Ministry needs to be always re looked at, cherished and refurbished for the times in which we live. No time in History is a so called Golden Age, were everything should remain unchanged and static! That kind of mentality is what I rudely call, a cemetery mentality where the remains are buried! The Christian community is alive, it is growing, and it is vibrant, only when Christians live on the edge.
Christianity grows when its Christians are as daring as some of the greatest explorers the world has ever seen. Christians are vibrant when they are joyful in the midst of difficulties. This is a very important theme in St. Paul’s Letters…..’Joy in the midst of tribulation!’ We need to be people who even look happy because we are happy! Christians are people of optimism, not pessimism ……we have many ‘sad sacks’ in our Church; some of them look worse than a sad Cocker Spaniel dog…at least it can wag its tail. Living, Proclaiming and Healing are joy-filled moments, if we were to rely on our own efforts entirely……we would give up quickly. But let’s remember the words of St. Paul the Apostle, ‘I can do all things through Him who gives me the strength’. How do we get that strength? It would seem, by listening to the truth in love which presupposes a good dose of humility and poverty of spirit.
Today’s Feast reminds each of us once again that we are all called to spread the Good News. We do this in many and varied ways according to the gifts which we have been given. Most of the time the way we proclaim Christ Crucified and Risen is through the ordinary events of our day. Our thoughts, our actions and attitudes towards others, and life-situations in general, is coloured by the intensity of the Spirit within us. We must nourish our inner spirit, and be sensitive towards the stirrings of the Holy Spirit breathing new life into us and His people today. We can easily fall back into the land of ‘doubt’ if we think that we are in charge of God’s plan. If we do that, we are blind to what God is doing in His people, and deaf to his constant invitation to be ”Good News” for each other. We are not alone, and never will be alone or abandoned by God. Like the Apostles in the Gospel, we take heed from Our Lord’s words…’And know that I am with you always, yes, to the end of time.’
Fr Kevin Walsh
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