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16 Meanwhile the eleven disciples set out for Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had arranged to meet them. 17 When they saw him they fell down before him, though some hesitated. 18 Jesus came up and spoke to them. He said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And look, I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.’
Alleluia! Come, let us worship Christ the Lord as he ascends into heaven. Alleluia! Today is the Solemnity of the Ascension of our Lord.
Would this be the day? Jesus has told the disciples that He must leave them, but that He will send them the Spirit, the Counselor who will guide them with wisdom and truth. They know that Jesus must leave them. But, while rejoicing at His resurrection are they perhaps still sad that He will leave? As a young boy who loved his father with a great passion I frequently would stand at the front door as my father left for work. I would watch him get into his truck and drive off. In my small world leaving for work meant leaving my world. What if he didn’t return? Some days I would not rise early enough to hug him and kiss him before he left. On those days I would go to the door, perhaps seeing his truck pull out, I was too late. My fear that he would not return, compounded by the lack of a warm goodbye and expression of my love for him, would leave me weeping at the door. Were some of the disciples weeping when their master, their teacher and friend left them? Was knowing that Jesus was sending them the Spirit a great enough consolation that within those tears of loss they could focus on the joy of the Ascension and the coming of the Comforter?
“When they saw him they fell down before him, though some hesitated.” We aren’t told why they hesitated. We just know that they did. Would you and I hesitate? Is it because we still doubt that He is who He says He is? Is it possible that some of the hesitation is because they are anticipating what comes next? Jesus is leaving. They will be left behind. Yes, the Spirit is coming. But they may be thinking, what comes next? What will we do now? Jesus speaks words of consolation: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Don’t worry. I have the authority to give you a new mission, a purpose in life. Now get ready. Here it comes. “Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” The mission is given. The Lord has spoken and the disciples are given their orders. “Go and make disciples of all the nations…” Not just preach and make converts. Make disciples. Disciples don’t only believe they strive to follow Jesus’ commands. True disciples center their lives, all that they do, on Jesus. Their world is transformed so that they view culture, economics, politics and family life through the lens of Christ. Jesus commands that His disciples go to all the nations “and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you.” This is our task as disciples of Jesus. Who are we teaching? Or are we waiting for someone else to respond to the “Great Commission?”
Lord we know that you said: “And look, I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.” Thank you for staying with us. Still we are often weak and wounded disciples who hesitate. Sometimes we are lonely and just want to draw near to You. Please don’t leave us at the door thinking that You have left and we didn’t get to tell You that we adore You. Remind us that You are with us till the end of time. Holy Spirit, be our comforter. Strengthen us so that we may respond to the great commission with a resounding Yes. Guide us to serve the Blessed Trinity in all that we do. Teach us the fullness of truth so that we may make disciples of all nations in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Blessed Virgin Mary, our Lady of Walsingham, pray for us.
This essay originally appeared here in May 2011.
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