This weekend we observe the Solemnity of the Ascension of our Lord into heaven. In our Gospel reading at Mass, we hear the Great Commission that Jesus gives to his disciples. “All power in heaven and 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.” (Mt. 28.20). These words are always relevant but even more so at this time. I am always impressed that Jesus in his last words to His disciples before he ascends into heaven gives a command, an imperative. Notice his words of instruction: Go – Make – Teach – Baptize – Behold. As a note, I would point out there is no asterisk to this instruction indicating any exemptions or conditions. Jesus does not indicate that there are times or conditions when we do not have to do these things. He does not offer it as a hopeful wish, nor does he say that we are to do these things only when it is easy or convenient. Likewise, Jesus does not suggest that we embark on these things only when the conditions are perfect. Yet, too often as Christians that is what we do. We hesitate. We make excuses. We procrastinate. To be a disciple of Jesus is not to be a person who just sits around and thinks pleasant thoughts. To be a disciple of Jesus is to be a missionary. Jesus sends us out. He says “Go!” To be a disciple of Jesus is to be men and women of action “Make, Teach, Baptize”. To be a disciple of Jesus is to be confident in Him, “Behold, I am with you always!”
This Great Commission is not restricted to a small number of the disciples. Jesus does not say this only to Peter or Andrew or John. Jesus, in this climatic moment of His earthly life and ministry, after he has been crucified and risen from the tomb, after years of preaching, teaching and healing commands His disciples to continue what he has begun. He commands us, you and me, to continue what he has begun. Jesus does not want or need spectators or fans. He wants us and commands us to be missionary disciples, all of us. Every mother and father, husband and wife, son and daughter, brother and sister, priest and religious, old and young, single or married, rich and poor, all of us are commissioned by the Lord. To be a disciple of Jesus is more than being an admirer. To be a disciple of Jesus is to be a disciple maker. Who have you brought to Jesus? How many disciples have you made recently? Who have you shared the teachings of Jesus within the last week? The last month?
Right now, even more than “normal,” our world is filled with fear, uncertainty and loneliness. Many people are afraid and for many that fear is turning into anger and despair. What is the answer? Masks? Social distancing? A vaccine? A government check? Hand washing? A Plexiglas divider? Zoom meetings? Contact tracing? There is nothing wrong with any of these things per se in our current situation, but none of them can or will cure what is really wrong. None of these things can give true meaning to our lives or fill our hearts with love. None of these things will save us from eternal death. The fear, uncertainty and loneliness that is present in the current situation is but a symptom of the greater disease that has infected humanity. Very simply, the world needs Jesus. We need Jesus. Your spouse and your kids need Jesus. Your neighbors, coworkers and friends need Jesus. The cure to fear, uncertainty and loneliness is Jesus Christ! God knows this and that is why He sent His only Son into the world. Jesus knows this too and that is why He is sending you and me to Go-Make-Teach-Baptize and Behold!
We start today.
In pace Christi,