Gospel Reflections

Feast of the Ascension

Matthew 28:16-20

Sunday Gospel Reflection by Sister Nancy Wellmeier

Published: May 28, 2017

Read Matthew 28:16-20

The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them. When they all saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted. Then Jesus approached... Read More…

Matthew’s account of the end of Jesus’ visible presence among his followers is in many ways like a family farewell—when the family gathers around the one who holds them together—mother or father, to receive the last blessing and hear the final instructions. We can picture something like this scene taking place in families where one member is about to emigrate or be deported, with little hope of being reunited. The reunion is possible only in the far future. “I am indeed going to prepare a place for you, and then I shall come back to take you with me…” John 14:3.

We can only imagine the feelings of the eleven. I have frequently done an exercise with my adult faith formation classes in which they face the reality of Jesus having left them with no instruction book no organizational chart and definitely no tape recording of his teachings. Their mission began from there.

The final instructions, we well know, are not just for those eleven companions, but for all future followers of the Lord.  “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations.  Baptize them, teach them everything I have commanded you, and know that I am with you always, even to the end of the world.”  This is what our brothers and sisters of the Reformation call “The Great Commission.”  We have all been commissioned—missioned to gather, baptize, teach.  Missionary disciples, in the words of Pope Francis.

This mission is not given in Jerusalem, or Bethany, as in Luke or Mark, but in Galilee, an already peripheral place in relation to the centers of power at that time. Is there as message here related to the command to go “to all nations?”  Most of us are not at the centers of power in our world, either political or ecclesial. We are to be found out in the fields with the sheep. Did Jesus feel more ‘at home’ in Galilee than in Jerusalem, the center of power in his world? Did he choose a peripheral place to teach us the importance of going out to the periphery? Or, in the words of our beloved St. Julie, “to the most abandoned places.”  Fortified in our mission with his constant presence: “Know that I am with you always, even to the end of the world.”


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