Franciscan Friar Fr. Paul Gallagher reflects on the Gospel for the Ascension of the Lord. Jesus’ command is that we are to make disciples of people of every nation, to baptize, and to teach everything that Jesus taught. How do you feel about being commissioned by Jesus?
The content is edited by Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Anne Marie Lom and Joe Thiel. The excerpts from the Sunday readings are prepared by Joe Thiel. To read or download the complete pdf with excerpts for your prayer, please click here Franciscan Gospel Reflection May 21 2023. Excerpts are from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. Used with permission. All rights reserved. No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
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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.”
Matthew devotes only twenty verses (chapter 28) to the resurrection. It would be worth reading the chapter in its entirety. But here is a summary of the events as they are recorded by Matthew:
At dawn on the first day of the week both Mary and Mary Magdalene went to the tomb. They witnessed an earthquake and an angel rolling back the stone from the cave. The angel instructed them to go to the disciples and tell them, “He has been raised from the dead, and he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him.” (Matthew 28:7) The Marys left the tomb fearful yet overjoyed and ran to the disciples. On their way they encountered Jesus himself who told them, “Do not be afraid, go tell my brothers to go to Galilee and there they will see me.” (Matthew 28:10) They were frightened but ran to tell the disciples. Soldiers who had been guarding the tomb told the high priests what had happened. The chief priests and the leaders met and decided to bribe the soldiers to say that Jesus’ disciples had come in the night and carried off the body. The soldiers took the money and did as they were told. Matthew states that the people of Judea still tell this story. The remainder of the chapter is the text for this Sunday’s Gospel.
While Luke’s Gospel and Mark’s longer version of the Gospel’s ending speak of the ascension of Jesus, Matthew only hints at it. Here in Matthew, Jesus instructs the disciples to meet in Galilee, the place from which the ministry of Jesus first began. It will also be the place from which the disciples’ ministry will begin. They will encounter the risen Jesus on a mountaintop. Throughout the Gospel the mountain has been a place of prayer and revelation. (Matthew 5:1, 14:31, & 15:29) The mountain was also the place were Moses received his last instruction (Deuteronomy 32:48-33:29). Matthew indicates the disciples both worshiped and doubted when they encountered the risen Lord. Even in this extraordinary encounter, the disciples are capable of two seemingly opposite emotions.
The Gospel for today also demonstrates that the two Marys were faithful to what they had been commissioned to do: go tell the disciples. Despite being caught in the two emotions of joy and fear, they acted. The opening of the text reminds the reader that the disciples were also faithful to what was asked of them. They were instructed to go to Galilee to meet Jesus. They too were caught between two emotions: doubt and worship. But they were still commissioned “to make disciples of all the nations,” to baptize, and to teach (Matthew 28:19-20). Jesus’ earlier instruction to the disciples not to enter a pagan or Samaritan area has now been set aside (Matthew 10:5). They are to baptize in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
The fact that we will gather to celebrate this feast is evidence that the disciples were also faithful to the commissioning they received from Jesus in today’s Gospel. They and all who have come after them have been faithful in passing on their relationship with God from one person to the next, down to us. Because of this faithfulness from generation after generation, we gather as a Church to celebrate our relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
- How do you experience God?
- Have you ever had an extraordinary experience of God’s presence?
- What are some of the emotions you would use to describe your own experience of God’s presence?
- How do you understand your relationship to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit?
- When the disciples saw Jesus, they worshiped, and they doubted. What does that suggest to you about their relationship to Jesus?
- Jesus’ command is that we are to make disciples of people of every nation, to baptize, and to teach everything that Jesus taught. How do you feel about being commissioned by Jesus?
- Where are the places that you are trying to live Jesus’ instruction?
- Can you take some time to talk with God about how you are feeling as you listen to this Gospel?