Ascension of the Lord
Matthew 28:16-20 June 2, 2011
There is no account of the actual ascension of the Lord in Matthew’s gospel but the equivalent passage, describing the leave-taking of Jesus from his disciples, is rich in spiritual meaning.
Jesus meets with his eleven remaining disciples at an unidentified mountain in Galilee. His disciples seem to have sensed that they will not see him again because they are filled at the same time with awe and hesitation–awe at his resurrection glory and hesitation because they cannot imagine a future without him. Jesus reassures them with the words: “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”
Then follows the final commissioning: “Go 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.” The supreme power of Jesus is thus shared with the disciples (and with us) for the purpose of making his salvation available to the whole world.
This is a daunting task, far beyond ordinary human ability, but Jesus then adds the precious and comforting words, “I will be with you always, until the end of the age.” This refers to the gift of the Holy Spirit, who will accompany all the followers of Jesus so that they may spread his gospel with courage and enthusiasm.
One of the subtle but powerful effects of 9/11 has been a deep and pervasive sense of helplessness in the face of unknown threats. We can never be quite as confident and carefree as we once were. Life suddenly seems more fragile and we worry more about the safety of our children and grandchildren. But “all power” has been given to Jesus, and he is ready and willing to use that power to protect us from any danger that might be truly destructive.
This power of Jesus is not the power of bombs and bullets, however. It is the much more reliable power of the love of God, which is present in our uncertain human situation with the potential to transform the world. It is our baptism in the name of the all-powerful Trinity that allows us to tap into that invincible current of love that flows through these divine Persons. We will never be able to understand fully just how powerful this goodness of God really is and how easily it can defeat the power of evil. The problem is that the threat of evil seems so real and our faith in God’s love is still so weak.
The final words of Jesus ought to be memorized and repeated over and over again: “I am with you always, until the end of time.” Jesus is saying these words to us every moment of every day…but too often we are not listening! We hear all the prophets of doom and gloom and we live in fear of their dire predictions. But we need most of all to hear the far more truthful words of Jesus, who has all power in heaven and on earth, and who will never abandon us if we trust in his love. In the presence of that love, even death can be changed from potent enemy to benign friend.
Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B.