SOLEMNITY OF THE LORD’S ASCENSION
Thursday 18 May 2023 / Sunday 21 May 2023
“Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
In Matthew’s Gospel, besides the Mount of Olives, there is only one other that is given the definite article. It is “the mountain” located by the Sea of Galilee, familiar to the community of Jesus, on which the Master retired to pray (14:23) and where he welcomed the crowds and healed the sick (15:29). It is the same mountain on which Jesus gave his famous Sermon on the Mount or the Beatitudes. The story of the evangelist Matthew ends by returning to this very region where the Lord had begun his public ministry.
The disciples are bewildered. Their Master was crucified and, according to the women’s testimony, rose after three days. They are gathered in the place on that Jesus told them and, just as predicted, they see and adore Him. BUT, the disciples have doubts… Yet, just as the women had announced, they were seeing Him! The fact that they adore means that they recognise Him as the Lord and Risen One. We don’t know what is the nature of their doubts, but the verb used here is the same one found elsewhere (but only in the New Testament) in the narrative of Jesus walking on water and the disciples confusing him with a ghost. When Peter attempts to go and meet Him, he sees the strong wind, becomes frightened, and begins to sink. Jesus grabs hold of him and says, “man of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matt 14:31). Peter’s doubt is not a doubt of the Risen One. It is more so a doubt in himself: in his own capacity and possibilities.
After His resurrection, Jesus is conscious of the disciples’ state of mind. They have to get used to a different relationship with Him. He doesn’t rebuke them for doubting, but sends them out: Go!
The best strategy to overcome doubts and fears isn’t to pause and meditate on them, but to go out, into the open, and put ourselves in circumstances in which we need to trust in Him and in in our own abilities. We can’t wait to become “ready” to go. Instead we simply should set off, entering in to the intimacy of the One who has promised: I am with you always, every day.
We can already love this blessing (beatitude) here on earth with everything that we lack, because HE is with us!
Whoever possesses God lacks nothing: God alone suffices. (St Teresa of Avila)