(By Fr. Dexter Brereton)
Ascension message to every Catholic – Get out of your comfort zone and spread the message of Truth.
The accounts of the Ascension of Jesus across the four gospels are not in harmony with respect to details. There is no agreement for example on whether, as in the account from Acts that it occurred after a period of forty days or, as implied in this Gospel reading, it takes place on the very day of the resurrection. The important thing however is its theological significance. The ascension brings to a close the series of appearances by the earthly resurrected Jesus. It marks an important transition in the relationship between Jesus and his community. Henceforth, Jesus will guide and protect the mission of the Christian community from his place in heaven ‘at God’s right hand.’
The following beautiful phrase touched me as I read the Gospel passage: All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations; baptize 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. The community of Matthew for which this Gospel was first written was largely Jewish and likely needed encouragement to spread the message of their master Jesus to their non-Jewish, or gentile neighbours.
It has been a constant temptation in the Christian Church down through the centuries to turn itself into a kind of “club” united by ties of nationality, or race or culture or class. Years ago, on a journey to Steubenville, USA, a woman said to me “I am Irish, therefore I am Catholic!” Being Catholic however, is not a tribal mark. Catholic Christianity is a message that is destined to cross boundaries. Every Roman Catholic therefore is invited by Jesus’ words to “leave their comfort zone” and “Make disciples of all the nations.” In other words, take the message of Jesus to those to whom they would normally not associate, to persons outside of their normal social circles.