Reflecting on Matthew 28:16-20
First, we should probably talk about the strange disconnect between Luke’s account of the Ascension in the first reading (Acts 1:1-11) and Matthew’s account in today’s Gospel (28:16-20). Although he doesn’t specifically state it, the site of the Ascension in Acts has to have been in Jerusalem. Why? Because they are enjoined not to leave Jerusalem until the gift of the Father (the Holy Spirit) comes upon them. So the Ascension must have taken place in Jerusalem.
But Matthew says that the Eleven gathered in the Galilee for Jesus’ Great Commission. It was on a mountain—which of course reminds us of the mountain at Sinai and the mountain of the Beatitudes —where Jesus promised that he would be with us always, even to the end of the age. Mark’s Gospel (16:7) sets this in motion when the angel at the empty tomb tells the women to tell the other disciples to go to Galilee, where they would see the risen Lord.
But here’s what’s interesting: it seems that in the Gospel today, Jesus appears to them as a manifestation of his already ascended state. There is no mention, as in Acts and Luke’s Gospel (24: 36-53), of Jesus ascending to heaven as they watched.
So even in the earliest memories of the Church the specifics of the when and where of Jesus’ ascent to heaven are purposely clothed in mystery. What a perfect metaphor for our own journeys. Crazy predictions of the end of the world will go on. But our deepest intuition and faith that our Christ is with us always, right up to the end, lives on.
In what ways do you sense that he is “with you always”?
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I have come to light a fire on the earth; how I wish it were already burning (Lk.12:49).