In some dioceses in which DENA ministers Ascension Thursday is observed as The Ascension of the Lord on the Seventh Sunday of Easter. This reflection uses this liturgical option.
Gospel – Matthew 28:16-20
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.”
Reflection on the Gospel
“Make disciples of all nations”
Sometimes in teaching, I can lose my bearings. I have moments where I get lost and think, “What am I really doing here?” What does it mean to teach? In its Latin roots, a ‘disciple’ is ‘one who learns.’ So, to teach is, in a powerful way, to make ‘disciples.’ While that may sound impressive, it provides more question than answer. What does that look like? In the Gospel today, we read that becoming a disciple means conversion and Baptism. It means becoming who you are through a mystical finding of self in God. But it also means the concrete acceptance of God’s living help through the sacramental rite of Baptism. Just so, in one way, becoming a disciple is a one-time transition. Yet in another way, becoming a disciple is made up of the whole of one’s life.
“When they saw him, they worshipped, but they doubted.”
For us, those professionally invested in the holistic formation of young people, this complex reality is worth pondering. Baptism does not mean I’ve finished the battle; I’ve arrived at my destination. It means I don’t know what’s to come, but I’m ready to begin. The disciples are not finished here at their Great Commission. This is where they begin. And even as they begin they are not perfect, but in progress. So too, education does not mean we want to get to a point where we can say I’ve finished the battle; I’ve arrived at my destination. Education means recommitting every day to saying I don’t know what’s to come, but I’m ready to begin.
It is worth noting that Jesus does not actually stop the disciples when they doubt. He sends them out with their doubts and all. Though doubling back to revisit material is a valuable practice much of the time, Jesus does not stop the class and return to the beginning of the lesson. Jesus seems to acknowledge that no understanding is perfect, that memory can fade, and that human beings are living, and therefore imperfect, instruments. Jesus, the divine teacher, shows us that imperfection is not so much a barrier to growth as a sign of growth. The fact that we are struggling means not that it is time to quit but that it is time to “go.” As we send our seniors out to the world, and as we turn the page on another year, we all “go” and continue the lesson, making disciples while ourselves continuing to become disciple.
Live, Jesus, in our hearts – Forever.