June 1, 2014 – The Ascension of the Lord
“All power in Heaven and in Earth have 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 to you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” With these words, the final words in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus ascends into Heaven.
Today we celebrate that Ascension and there are many ways that we can look at that event. However, those closing words may provide us with enough to consider that everything else pales in comparison. These final words of Christ are termed by many scholars and theologians as “The Great Commission.” This is not just a commission to the Apostles, though; it is a commission to each and every one of us who professes to be a Catholic and a Christian.
In stewardship, we often speak of being called. This is the ultimate call to us. Note that Jesus uses four “alls” in His instructions to us and information for us. The first is that “All power in Heaven and Earth have been given to me.” To really practice stewardship, to live lives as a steward, we must place the Lord at the center of our lives. To reiterate what this means, we must practice God-centered lives, not self-centered lives.
The second “all” is that we are “to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” The word “all” is pretty complete. We can see the commission taken on by our Catholic Church as our missionaries went throughout the world, baptizing and seeking converts to the Faith. That charge has not changed for us. Does that mean we must stand on street corners or to venture into the jungle of South America or to travel throughout the world evangelizing? Perhaps, yes. However, it also means that we are to live out our Catholic faith openly and with pride and confidence, so that ALL we come in contact with will know what we believe.
Making disciples is followed by “teaching all that I have commanded to you.” There is no room for opinions here. Jesus made His beliefs and thus our beliefs quite clear throughout His ministry. Our task is to follow those commands carefully and truthfully, to practice our faith completely and thoroughly. This, too, is one of the tenets of stewardship, to live out our faith as it is prescribed to us by the Church.
The final “all” is on the one hand more subtle, but in reality it is not at all. Jesus tells us that He will be with us “always.” The roots of the word “always” are the two words “all ways.” The Lord is with us in every way imaginable and at every moment of our lives.
We celebrate His Ascension today, but not His departure. He is not gone. The Lord is with us. When the Messiah was announced to us, and when we celebrate His birth at Christmas we call Him Emmanuel. You may recall that Emmanuel means “God with us.” Thus, we are told at the beginning He is with us and we are told at the end of His time on earth that He is with us — always in all ways. That should be a source of great comfort to us.