Thứ Bảy, 31 tháng 5, 2014

JUNE 01, 2014 : THE ASCENSION OF THE LORD

The Ascension of the Lord
Lectionary: 58

Reading 1ACTS 1:1-11
In the first book, Theophilus,
I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught
until the day he was taken up,
after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit
to the apostles whom he had chosen.
He presented himself alive to them
by many proofs after he had suffered,
appearing to them during forty days
and speaking about the kingdom of God.
While meeting with the them,
he enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem,
but to wait for “the promise of the Father
about which you have heard me speak;
for John baptized with water,
but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

When they had gathered together they asked him,
“Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
He answered them, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons
that the Father has established by his own authority.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you,
and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem,
throughout Judea and Samaria,
and to the ends of the earth.”
When he had said this, as they were looking on,
he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.
While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going,
suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them.
They said, “Men of Galilee,
why are you standing there looking at the sky?
This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven
will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.”
Responsorial Psalm PS 47:2-3, 6-7, 8-9
R/ (6) God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.
or:
R/ Alleluia.
All you peoples, clap your hands,
shout to God with cries of gladness,
For the LORD, the Most High, the awesome,
is the great king over all the earth.
R/ God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.
or:
R/ Alleluia.
God mounts his throne amid shouts of joy;
the LORD, amid trumpet blasts.
Sing praise to God, sing praise;
sing praise to our king, sing praise.
R/ God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.
or:
R/ Alleluia.
For king of all the earth is God;
sing hymns of praise.
God reigns over the nations,
God sits upon his holy throne.
R/ God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.
or:
R/ Alleluia.
Reading 2 EPH 1:17-23
Brothers and sisters:
May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory,
give you a Spirit of wisdom and revelation
resulting in knowledge of him.
May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened,
that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call,
what are the riches of glory
in his inheritance among the holy ones,
and what is the surpassing greatness of his power
for us who believe,
in accord with the exercise of his great might,
which he worked in Christ,
raising him from the dead
and seating him at his right hand in the heavens,
far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion,
and every name that is named
not only in this age but also in the one to come.
And he put all things beneath his feet
and gave him as head over all things to the church,
which is his body,
the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.

Gospel MT 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.”


Scripture Study – Jun. 1, 2014
June 1, 2014 Ascension of the Lord


In the dioceses of Alaska, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, California and Hawaii the Ascension of the Lord is transferred from its normal Thursday to the following Sunday, which is today. This has been done for the last few years in the western provinces of the North American church because the Ascension is too important to ignore and the celebration on Thursday was not getting the attention that it was due. The readings call us to reflect on the meaning of the Ascension and on our relationship with the Risen and Ascended Lord.


First Reading: Acts 1: 1-11
1 In the first book, Theophilus, I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught 2 until the day he was taken up, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 He presented himself alive to them by many proofs after he had suffered, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. 4While meeting with them, he enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for “the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak; 5 for John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
6 When they had gathered together they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He answered them, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 9 When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight. 10 While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. 11 They said, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.”
NOTES on First Reading:
* 1:1-2 These verses act as an introduction to Acts and connect Acts with the Gospel of Luke which is generally taken to have been written by the same writer.
* 1:3-5 These verses show that the apostles were instructed by the risen Jesus. This sense of continuity between the teaching of Jesus and the teaching of the disciples (Church) was very important to the early Church.
* 1:3 Luke considered the interval in which the appearances and instructions of the risen Jesus occurred to be especially sacred and in Acts he expressed it in terms of the sacred number forty (see Deut 8:2). In the scriptures forty is often used to indicate a special time in which God accomplishes a special task in and among His people. It implies a time that is sufficiently long to accomplish God’s purpose. In Luke’s gospel, however, Luke connects the ascension of Jesus with the resurrection by describing the ascension on Easter Sunday evening (Luke 24:50-53). What might better be understood as one event (resurrection, glorification, ascension, sending of the Spirit–the paschal mystery) has been historicized by Luke when he writes of a visible ascension of Jesus after forty days and the descent of the Spirit at Pentecost.
For Luke, the ascension marks the end of the appearances of Jesus except for the extraordinary appearance to Paul. With regard to Luke’s understanding of salvation history, the ascension also marks the end of the time of Jesus’ direct action in the world (Luke 24:50-53) and signals the beginning of the time of Jesus’ action through the Church as the normal means of carrying out His Mission.
* 1:4 The promise of the Father is, of course, the gift of the Holy Spirit which the next verse makes clear. This gift of the Spirit was first promised in Jesus’ final instructions to his chosen witnesses in Luke’s gospel (Luke 24:49) and it formed part of the continuing instructions of the risen Jesus on the kingdom of God, which Luke speaks of in Acts 1:3.
* 1:6-11 Here Luke assures us that the parousia (second coming in glory) of Jesus will occur just as certainly as His ascension occurred.
* 1:6 The question asked by the disciples implies that they are still attempting to fit Jesus and His ministry into their expectations of a political leader who would restore self-rule to Israel. Since He had not done so, they ask if it is to take place now, in the time of the Church.
* 1:7 This verse echoes the previous tradition that the precise time of the parousia is not revealed to human beings. See Mark 13:32; 1 Thes 5:1-3.
* 1:8 As Jerusalem was the city of destiny in the Gospel of Luke, here at the beginning of Acts, Jerusalem also has a central importance. It is the starting point for the mission of the disciples to “the ends of the earth,” the place where the apostles were gathered and the doctrinal focal point in the early days of the community (Acts 15:2,6). For Luke, “the ends of the earth” means Rome.
* 1:9-14 Scholars still argue over whether Luke derived the story of the ascension from previous tradition and if so how much of it came from that tradition. Luke includes direct echoes of Elijah’s ascension as told in 2 Kings 2:9-13 and Sirach 48:9,12.
The witness theme is important here. Luke refers to witness’s vision five times in verses 9-11. This is an argument for the visibility and historicity of Jesus’ ascension. However, the inclusion of interpreting angels signals that this is not simply an event fully within history and therefore it is not completely comprehensible on strictly human terms.
There is a strong similarity with the last of Daniel’s night visions from Daniel 7:13-14. In fact, Daniel’s description reads almost as if it were a description of Jesus’ arrival in heaven after leaving earth in the ascension.
Second Reading: Ephesians 1: 17-23
17 That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of him. 18 May the eyes of (your) hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones, 19 and what is the surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe, in accord with the exercise of his great might, 20 which he worked in Christ, raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavens, 21 far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion, and every name that is named not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things beneath his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.
NOTES on Second Reading:
* 1:17 In Greco-Roman letters, the greeting was customarily followed by a prayer. Paul’s letters usually include this element (except Gal and 1-2 Tim) but express it in Christian thanksgiving formulas and most often they also state the principal theme of the letter. In Ephesians the prayer is preceded by a lengthier blessing than usual.
* 1:20-23 God revealed His might in the resurrection and ascension of Christ and in His exaltation over all angelic forces. Paul uses early Christian creedal statements which formulated the “Christ-event” in terms of Psalm 110:1 and 8:7 in order to impress upon the readers the glorious position to which they have been called in Christ.
* 1:23 Only in Ephesians and Colossians is Christ called the head of the body, in contrast to the view in 1 Cor 12 and Romans 12:4-8 where Christ is equated with the entire body or community. In this verse some take the one who fills as God, others as Christ (see Eph 4:10). If in Christ “dwells the fullness of the deity bodily” (Col 2:9), then, as God “fills” Christ, Christ in turn fills the church and the believer (Eph 3:19; 5:18). But the difficult phrases here may also allow the church to be viewed as the “complement” of Christ who is “being filled” as God’s plan for the universe is carried out through the church (See Eph 3:9-10).
Gospel Reading: Matthew 28: 16-20
16 The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted. 18 Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
NOTES on Gospel Reading:
* 28:16-20 This climactic scene, often called a “proleptic parousia,” gives a foretaste of the final glorious coming of the Son of Man (Matthew 26:64). At that time his triumph will be manifest to all, whereas, now it is revealed only to the disciples, who, as part of the revelation, are commissioned to announce it to all nations and bring them to belief in Jesus and obedience to his commandments.
Since the message to the disciples was simply that they were to go to Galilee (Matthew 28:10), some think that the mountain comes from a tradition of the message known to Matthew and alluded to here. As in Mat 17:1, the significance of the mountain is likely to be theological rather than geographical, possibly recalling the revelation to Moses on Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:12-18) and to Elijah at the same place (1 Kings 19:8-18; Horeb is the same as Sinai).
* 28:17 The Greek can be translated, as either, “but they doubted,” or “but some doubted.” The verb only occurs in one other place in the New Testament: Matthew 14:31 where it is associated with Peter’s being of “little faith.”
* 28:18 The Greek text here calls to mind that found in the LXX translation of Daniel 7:13-14 where one “like a son of man” is given power and an everlasting kingdom by God. The risen Jesus here claims universal power, that is power in heaven and on earth. He claims for Himself the power, dignity and dominion given to the mysterious figure of Daniel 7:13-14.
* 28:19 Because universal power belongs to the risen Jesus (Matthew 28:18), He gives the eleven a mission that is universal. They are to make disciples of all nations. While scholars have long argued whether or not this term refers only to Gentiles, it is probable that it was meant to include the Jews as well. Baptism was seen by the early church as the means of entrance into the community of the Risen One, the Church. This verse contains what may be the clearest expression in the New Testament of Trinitarian belief. It was probably the baptismal formula of Matthew’s church, but its primary function here is to designate the effect of baptism which is the union of the one baptized with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
* 28:20 The commands mentioned here include all the moral teaching found in this gospel, but especially that of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). The commandments of Jesus replace the Mosaic law as the standard of Christian conduct, even though some of the Mosaic commandments have been repeated and continued by the authority of Jesus. The promise of Jesus’ real presence echoes the name Emmanuel given to him in the infancy narrative (Mat 1:23) even though His presence may not be generally visible. Matthew is the only Gospel that uses the term, “end of the age.” See the Matthew 13:39 and Matthew 24:3. Although the exact meaning is never precisely given, it seems to indicate a time marked by the return of Jesus.


Meditation: "I am with you always - to the close of the age"

Why did Jesus leave his disciples forty days after his resurrection? Forty is a significant number in the scriptures. Moses went to the mountain to seek the face of God for forty days in prayer and fasting. The people of Israel were in the wilderness for forty years in preparation for their entry into the promised land. Elijah fasted for forty days as he journeyed in the wilderness to the mountain of God. For forty days after his resurrection Jesus appeared numerous times to his disciples to assure them that he had risen indeed and to prepare them for the task of carrying on the work which he began during his earthy ministry.
Jesus' departure and ascension into heaven was both an end and a beginning for his disciples. While it was the end of Jesus' physical presence with his beloved disciples, it marked the beginning of Jesus' presence with them in a new way. Jesus promised that he would be with them always to the end of time. He assured them of his power - a power which overcame sin and death. Now as the glorified and risen Lord and Savior, ascended to the right hand of the Father in heaven, Jesus promised to give them the power of his Holy Spirit, which we see fulfilled ten days later on the Feast of Pentecost (Luke 24:49 and Acts 2:1-4). When the Lord Jesus departed physically from the apostles, they were not left alone or powerless. Jesus assured them of his presence and the power of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus' last words to his apostles point to his saving mission and to their mission to be witnesses of his saving death and his glorious resurrection and to proclaim the good news of salvation to all the world. Their task is to proclaim the gospel - the good news of salvation - not only to the people of Israel, but to all the nations as well. God's love and gift of salvation is not reserved for a few or for one nation alone, but it is for the whole world - for all who will accept it. The gospel is the power of God, the power to release people from their burden of guilt, sin, and oppression, and the power to heal, restore, and make us whole. Do you believe in the power of the gospel?
This is the great commission which the risen Christ gives to the whole church. All believers have been given a share in this task - to be heralds of the good news and ambassadors for Jesus Christ, the only savior of the world. We have not been left alone in this task, for the risen Lord works in and through us by the power of his Holy Spirit. Today we witness a new Pentecost as the Lord pours out his Holy Spirit upon his people to renew and strengthen the body of Christ and to equip it for effective ministry and mission world-wide. Do you witness to others the joy of the gospel and the hope of the resurrection?
“Lord Jesus, through the gift of your Holy Spirit, you fill us with an indomitable spirit of praise and joy which no earthly trial can subdue. Fill me with your resurrection joy and help me to live a life of praise and thanksgiving for your glory. May I witness to those around me the joy of the gospel and the reality of your resurrection.”


We Are One Body

John 17:1-11a
Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said, "Father, the hour has come. Give glory to your son, so that your son may glorify you, just as you gave him authority over all people, so that he may give eternal life to all you gave him. Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ. I glorified you on earth by accomplishing the work that you gave me to do. Now glorify me, Father, with you, with the glory that I had with you before the world began. I revealed your name to those whom you gave me out of the world. They belonged to you, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you gave me is from you, because the words you gave to me I have given to them, and they accepted them and truly understood that I came from you, and they have believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me, because they are yours, and everything of mine is yours and everything of yours is mine, and I have been glorified in them. And now I will no longer be in the world, but they are in the world, while I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are."
Introductory Prayer: Jesus Christ, true God and true man, my Creator and my Redeemer. I love you above all other things – even more than I love myself. Thank you for letting me live in communion with your divine life. I wish never to be separated from you.
Petition: Lord, help me to work for unity within your Church.
1. “I Pray for Them” - Christ desires unity for his people. He wants to share the love that has always existed between himself and his Father. To realize this goal he has come into a world broken by selfish divisions. Contrary to his Father’s will, sinful men and women in this world no longer see themselves as brothers and sisters but as enemies and rivals. Christ reveals himself in their midst as the only way to the Father and the one sent to unify all peoples into the one mystery of salvation, the Church. Do I look to Christ as the source of unity between myself and others?
2. “May They Be One Just As We Are” - The “master plan” is for all people to be united in Christ, regardless of race, gender, age, nationality, social background, politics or abilities. His focus is on “inclusion” not “diversity.” Diversity can break down unity if it emphasizes multiple points of difference. Even where a bond of oneness exists, a focus on diversity will often emphasize the lack of unity. Focusing on unity, on the other hand, builds up the Church by helping each person to discover his place within the Mystical Body of Christ. We are one body in Christ (Cf. Romans 12:5).
3. “Keep Them in Your Name” - No one can fully participate in this union with Christ and the Father unless he accepts the invitation to be part of the one body of the Church. For us to be included, we must enter through Christ who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. There is no other name under heaven by which we are saved. It would be a great mistake for us to want and to seek membership in his Church while adopting conflicting attitudes that keep us separated from the Father, Christ and our brothers and sisters. Do I know how to appreciate the varying gifts and talents of others? Do I offer my own gifts and talents at the service of the Church?
 Conversation with Christ: Lord, you know there are many divisions in my life. I have created many of these. Help me overcome them. Help me eliminate those caused by my selfishness and pride. Help me make you the cornerstone of my life.
Resolution: This week, through my prayer and action, I will try to help mend broken bonds between people.

SOLEMNITY OF THE ASCENSION OF THE LORD, SUNDAY, JUNE 1, MATTHEW 28:16-20 (Holy Day of Obligation)
(Acts 1:1-11; Psalm 47; Ephesians 1:17-23)

KEY VERSE: "And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age" (v 20).
READING: When Jesus' mission on earth was completed, "in the fullness of time" (Greek: pleroma kairos) he ascended to the Father, filling all of creation with his divine presence. During his earthly ministry, Jesus' mission was to the "lost sheep of the House of Israel" (Mt 10:6). At his ascension he expanded his mission to encompass the whole world, fulfilling the promise to Abraham that in him, all nations would be blessed (Gn 18:18). Jesus reassured his disciples by promising them that his abiding presence and authority would sustain them in their mission as they baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Spirit. In his ascension to the Father, Jesus went before us so that we might grow into the "fullness" of the stature of the children of God. At his birth, Jesus was called "Emmanuel," which means, "God is with us" (Matt 1:23). The Spirit of the Risen Christ continues be with the Church to guide and protect it until the end of time. 
REFLECTING: In what ways am I empowered to continue Jesus' work on earth?
PRAYING: Risen Lord, be with our Church in times of joy and times of trial.
NOTE: In those places where the Ascension has been transferred to the Seventh Sunday of Easter, the following readings are used: Acts 18:1-8; John 16:16-20. With the Solemnity of the Ascension, the Church begins nine days of prayer in preparation of the celebration of Pentecost. Let us sing each day the ancient hymn of longing for the Spirit known as ""Veni, Creator Spiritus" in Latin or "Come, Holy Ghost" in English. 

MINUTE MEDITATIONS 

Mary, Console Us
Mary, console us in our times of fear and hurt and sadness. Ask your Son to heal us of what keeps us from fully giving ourselves to Him spiritually, physically, and mentally. As you relieve us from the burdens of this life, may we return to you in thanksgiving, always acknowledging, always grateful.
— from Visiting Mary 

June 1
St. Justin
(d. 165)

Justin never ended his quest for religious truth even when he converted to Christianity after years of studying various pagan philosophies.
As a young man, he was principally attracted to the school of Plato. However, he found that the Christian religion answered the great questions about life and existence better than the philosophers.
Upon his conversion he continued to wear the philosopher's mantle, and became the first Christian philosopher. He combined the Christian religion with the best elements in Greek philosophy. In his view, philosophy was a pedagogue of Christ, an educator that was to lead one to Christ.
Justin is known as an apologist, one who defends in writing the Christian religion against the attacks and misunderstandings of the pagans. Two of his so-called apologies have come down to us; they are addressed to the Roman emperor and to the Senate.
For his staunch adherence to the Christian religion, Justin was beheaded in Rome in 165.


Comment:

As patron of philosophers, Justin may inspire us to use our natural powers (especially our power to know and understand) in the service of Christ and to build up the Christian life within us. Since we are prone to error, especially in reference to the deep questions concerning life and existence, we should also be willing to correct and check our natural thinking in light of religious truth. Thus we will be able to say with the learned saints of the Church: I believe in order to understand, and I understand in order to believe.
Quote:

"Philosophy is the knowledge of that which exists, and a clear understanding of the truth; and happiness is the reward of such knowledge and understanding" (Justin, Dialogue with Trypho, 3).

LECTIO DIVINA: THE ASCENSION OF THE LORD (A)
Lectio: 
 Sunday, June 1, 2014  
Go into the whole world
Universal mission
Matthew 28:16-20

1. OPENING PRAYER
 Lord Jesus, send your Spirit to help us to read the Scriptures with the same mind that you read them to the disciples on the way to Emmaus. In the light of the Word, written in the Bible, you helped them to discover the presence of God in the disturbing events of your sentence and death. Thus, the cross that seemed to be the end of all hope became for them the source of life and of resurrection.
Create in us silence so that we may listen to your voice in Creation and in the Scriptures, in events and in people, above all in the poor and suffering. May your word guide us so that we too, like the two disciples from Emmaus, may experience the force of your resurrection and witness to others that you are alive in our midst as source of fraternity, justice and peace. We ask this of you, Jesus, son of Mary, who revealed to us the Father and sent us your Spirit. Amen.
2. READING
a) A key to guide the reading:

The text reports the last words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew. This is like a testament, his last wish for the community, that which is uppermost in his mind. In our reading, let us try to pay attention to the following: What does Jesus insist on most in his final words?
b) A division of chapter 14 to help with the reading:

Mt 28:16 – Geographical indication: return to Galilee
Mt 28:17 – Jesus’ apparition and the reaction of the disciples
Mt 28:18-20a – Jesus’ final instructions
Mt 28:20b – The great promise, source of all hope.
c) The text:

16: Meanwhile the eleven disciples set out for Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had arranged to meet them.
17: When they saw him they fell down before him, though some hesitated.
18-20a: Jesus came up and spoke to them. He said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you.
20b: And look, I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.'
3. A MOMENT OF PRAYERFUL SILENCE
so that the Word of God may enter into us and enlighten our life.
4. SOME QUESTIONS
to help us in our personal reflection.
a) What struck you and touched your heart most?
b) Identify the chronological and geographical information in this text.
c) How do the disciples react? What is the content of Jesus’ words to the disciples?
d) What is this "all power in heaven and on earth" given to Jesus?
e) What does it mean, "to become a disciple" of Jesus?
f) In this context, what does the baptism "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" mean?
g) What do the words "I am with you always, even to the end of time" remind us of in the OT?
5. A KEY TO THE READING
for those who wish to go deeper into the text.
a) The context of Matthew’s Gospel
* Matthew’s Gospel, written about the year 85, is addressed to a community of converted Jews who lived in Syria-Palestine. They were going through a deep identity crisis concerning their past. When they accepted Jesus as the awaited Messiah, they continued to go to the synagogue and to observe the law and the ancient traditions. Moreover, they had a certain affinity with the Pharisees, and after the revolution of the Jews in Palestine against the Romans (65 to 72), they and the Pharisees were the only two groups to have survived the Roman oppression.
* From the 80s, these Jewish brothers, Pharisees and Christians, only survivors, began to fight among themselves as to who had inherited the promises of the OT. Each claimed to be the inheritors. Gradually, tension grew between them and they began to excommunicate each other. The Christians could no longer attend the synagogue and were cut off from their past. Each group began to regroup: the Pharisees in the synagogue, the Christians in church. This added to the identity problem of the community of Jewish Christians because it raised serious questions in need of urgent solutions. "Who has inherited the promises of the OT, those of the synagogue or those of the church? On whose side is God? Who are really the people of God?
* Now, Matthew writes his Gospel to help these communities overcome their crisis and to find an answer to their problems. His Gospel is, first of all, a Gospel of revelation showing how Jesus is the true Messiah, the new Moses, the culmination of the whole of the history of the OT and its promises. It is also the Gospel of consolation for those who felt excluded and persecuted by their Jewish brothers. Matthew wants to console and help them to overcome the trauma of the split. It is the Gospel of the new practice because it shows the way to achieve a new justice, greater than that of the Pharisees. It is the Gospel of openness and shows that the Good News of God that Jesus brought cannot be hidden, but must be placed on a candlestick so that it may enlighten the life of all peoples.
b) Commentary on the text of Matthew 28: 16-20

* Matthew 28:16: Returning to Galilee: It was in Galilee that it all began (Mt 4:12). It was there that the disciples first heard the call (Mt 4:15) and it was there that Jesus promised to reunite them again after the resurrection (Mt 26:31). In Luke, Jesus forbids them to leave Jerusalem (Acts 1:4). In Matthew they are commanded to leave Jerusalem and go back to Galilee (Mt 28: 7.10). Each evangelist has his own way of presenting the person of Jesus and his plans. For Luke, after the resurrection of Jesus, the proclamation of the Good News has to begin in Jerusalem in order to reach to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). For Matthew, the proclamation begins in Galilee of the pagans (Mt 4:15) in order to prefigure the passage from the Jews to the pagans.
The disciples had to go to the mountain that Jesus pointed out to them. Themountain reminds us of Mount Sinai, where the first Covenant took place and where Moses received the tablets of the Law of God (Ex 19 to 24; 34:1-35). It also reminds us of the mountain of God, where the prophet Elijah took refuge in order to find again the meaning of his mission (1Kings 19:1-18). It also reminds us of the mountain of the Transfiguration, where Moses and Elijah, that is, the Law and the Prophets, appear with Jesus, thus confirming that he is the promised Messiah (Mt 17:1-8).
* Matthew 28:17: Some doubted: The first Christians had great difficulty in believing in the resurrection. The evangelists insist in saying that they doubted a lot and did not believe in the resurrection of Jesus (Mk 16:11.13.14; Lk 24:11.21.25.36.41; Jn 20:25). Faith in the resurrection was a slow and difficult process, but ended by being the greatest certainty of Christians (1Cor 15:3-34).
* Matthew 28:18: All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me: The passive form of the verb shows that Jesus received his authority from the Father. What is this authority? In the Apocalypse, the Lamb (the risen Jesus) received from the hand of God the book with seven seals (Ap 5:7) and became the Lord of history, he who must assume the responsibility for the execution of God’s project as described in the sealed book, and as such is adored by all creatures (Ap 12:11-14). By his authority and power he conquers the Dragon, the power of evil (Ap 12:1-9). And captures the Beast and the false prophet, symbols of the Roman Empire (Ap 19:20). In the Creed at Mass we say that Jesus ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father, thus becoming the judge of the living and the dead.
* Matthew 28:19-20a: Jesus’ last words: three commands to the disciples: Vested with supreme authority, Jesus passes on three orders to the disciples and to all of us: (i) Go therefore and make disciples of all nations; (ii) baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; (iii) teach them to observe whatsoever I have commanded you.
i) Go therefore and make disciples of all nations: To be a disciple is not the same as being a student. A disciple is in relation to the master. A student is in relation to the teacher. The disciple lives with the master 24 hours a day; the student receives lessons from the teacher for a few hours then goes back home. The disciple presupposes a community. The student presupposes being present in a classroom for lessons. The state of discipleship in those days was marked by the expression to follow the master. In the Carmelite Rule we read: To live in obedience to Jesus Christ. For the first Christians, to follow Jesus meant three connected things:
- To imitate the example of the Master: Jesus was the model to imitate and to be repeated in the life of the disciple (Jn 13:13-15). Living together every day meant a constant meeting. In this School of Jesus only one subject was taught: the Kingdom! This Kingdom could be seen in the life and practice of Jesus.
- Sharing in the fate of the Master: Those who followed Jesus, had to commit themselves to "stay with him in temptations" (Lk 22:28), and in persecution (Jn 15:20; Mt 10:24-25) and had to be willing to take up the cross and die with him (Mk 8:34-35; Jn 11:36).
- To possess in oneself the life of Jesus: After Easter, a third dimension was added: "I live now not I but Christ lives in me". The first Christians sought to identify themselves with Jesus. This is the mystical dimension in the following of Jesus, fruit of the Spirit’s action.
ii) Baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: The Trinity is the source, the end and the way. Those baptised in the name of the Father, revealed in Jesus, commit themselves to live as brothers and sisters in fraternity. And if God is Father, we are all brothers and sisters. Those baptised in the name of the Son, Jesus, commit themselves to imitate Jesus and to follow him even unto the cross in order to rise with him. And the power that Jesus received from the Father is a creative power that conquers death. Those baptised in the Holy Spirit, given by Jesus on the day of Pentecost, commit themselves to interiorising fraternity and the following of Jesus, allowing themselves to be led by the Spirit alive in the community.
iii) Teaching them to observe all my commands: For us Christians, Jesus is the New Law of God, proclaimed from on high in the mountain. Jesus is the chosen of the Father as the new Moses, whose word is law for us. "Hear him" (Mt 17:15). The Spirit sent by him will remind us of all the things he taught us (Jn 14:26; 16:13). The observance of the new Law of love is balanced by the gratuitous presence of Jesus in our midst, till the end of time.
* Matthew 28:20b: I am with you always, even to the end of time: When Moses was sent to free the people from Egypt, he received a guarantee from God, the only guarantee that offers complete certainty: "Go, I shall be with you!" (Ex 3:12). It is the same certainty promised to the prophets and other persons sent by God to undertake an important mission in God’s plan (Jer 1:8; Jud 6:16). Mary received the same guarantee when the angel said to her, "The Lord is with you" (Lk 1:28). The person of Jesus is the living expression of this guarantee, because his name is Emmanuel, God with us (Mt 1:23). He will be with his disciples, with all of us, even to the end of time. Here we see Jesus’ authority. He controls history and time. He is the first and the last (Ap 1:17). Before the first, nothing existed and after the last, nothing is. This guarantee sustains people, nourishes their faith, sustains hope and generates love and the gift of oneself.
c) Highlighting the words of Jesus: The universal mission of the community.
Abraham was called to be the source of blessings not only for his descendants, but for all families on earth (Gen 12:3). The slave people were called not only to restore the tribe of Jacob, but also to be light to the nations (Is 49:6; 42:6). The prophet Amos said that God not only freed Israel from Egypt, but also the Philistines from Kaftor and the Aramaians from Quir (Am 9:7). God, then, looks after and is concerned for the Israelites as well as for the Philistines and the Aramaians who were the greatest enemies of the people of Israel! The prophet Elijah thought he was the only defender of God (Kings 19:10.14), but he had to be told that apart from himself there were seven thousand others! (1Kings 18:18) The prophet Jonah wanted Yahweh to be only the God of Israel, but had to admit that he is the God of all nations, even the inhabitants of Niniveh, the bitterest enemies of Israel (Jo 4:1-11). In the New Testament, John, the disciple, wanted Jesus only for the little group, for the community, but Jesus corrected him and said, He who is not against me is for me! (Mk 9:348-40).
At the end of the first century after Christ, the difficulties and persecutions could have driven the Christian communities into losing the missionary impetus and to close in on themselves, as if they were the only ones defending the values of the Kingdom. But Matthew’s Gospel, faithful to this long tradition of openness to all nations, tells the communities that they cannot close in on themselves. They cannot claim for themselves a monopoly on the action of God in the world. God is not the community’s property; rather the community is Yahweh’s property (Ex 19:5). In the midst of humanity that struggles against and resists oppression, the communities must be salt and yeast (Mt 5:13; 13:33). They must proclaim aloud to the whole world, among all nations, the Good News that Jesus brought us. God is present in our midst, the same God who, in Exodus, commits himself to free those who call on his name! (Ex 3:7-12). This is our mission. If this salt loses its savour, what will it be good for? "It is of no use for the earth or for the fertiliser" (Lk 14:35)
6. PSALM 150
Universal praise
Hallelujah!
Praise God in his holy sanctuary;
give praise in the mighty dome of heaven.
Give praise for his mighty deeds,
praise him for his great majesty.
Give praise with blasts upon the horn,
praise him with harp and lyre.
Give praise with tambourines and dance,
praise him with flutes and strings.
Give praise with crashing cymbals,
praise him with sounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath
give praise to the Lord!
Hallelujah!
7. FINAL PRAYER
Lord Jesus, we thank for the word that has enabled us to understand better the will of the Father. May your Spirit enlighten our actions and grant us the strength to practice that which your Word has revealed to us. May we, like Mary, your mother, not only listen to but also practise the Word. You who live and reign with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen.