A mission and a presence that last till the end of time
Feast of the Ascension A (Mt 28:16-20)
51st World Communications Day
May 28, 2017
By Fr. Sal Putzu, SDB
IT was bound to happen: the triumph of the Resurrection had to find its completion in the exaltation of Christ “at the right hand of the Father.” Now, Jesus’ human nature belongs to another dimension of existence—the fuller dimension of the glorified state. We rejoice and share in his exaltation.
According to God’s design, Christ’s mission has to be carried on by the Church, under the visible leadership of the Apostles and their successors, empowered and guided by the Holy Spirit. The mystery of mankind’s Redemption continues in and through the Church, the Mediatrix/Channel of all grace. In her, the mystery of an omnipotent God, who solicits the cooperation of frail creatures in order to realize His plan, is restated and re-enacted in a new, even more disconcerting manner.
This “style” started with eleven fearful “nobodies,” mustered from among fishermen, tax collectors, and zealots. They were sent by Jesus into an immense, unfriendly world to sow in it the mustard seed of the Kingdom.
The mission of the Eleven was daunting and unprecedented. In the past, the Lord God had assigned prophets to convey His messages to some individual or group, in a well defined area and within specific historical circumstances. The Old Testament is replete with such cases. But the mandate given by Jesus to the Apostles was absolutely unlimited in space, scope, and time. He sent them to the whole world. They were to proclaim the Gospel to all nations, teaching them to observe all that he had commanded them during his apostolic life in Palestine.
The mission was simply overwhelming. Those poor and mostly illiterate men were expected to become the TEACHERS of all nations. And that was not all. Those frail men, full of defects and wrong priorities were expected to be WITNESSES to Jesus and the Gospel they were sent to proclaim! (See today’s First Reading, v. 8.) And this mission was to be carried out “to the ends of the earth” and “until the end of time”! By all standards, it looked and was a MISSION IMPOSSIBLE!
What made all the difference and assured a complete final success (despite all obstacles and “ups and downs”) was the unfailing and powerful presence of the HOLY SPIRIT. Repeatedly promised by Jesus and eventually sent by the Father and him on Pentecost day, the Holy Spirit transformed that apprehensive band of not-qualified people into heroes and saints. He did and will continue doing the same with their successors till the end of time.
And through it all, the glorified Jesus will not watch the vicissitudes of his Church “from a distance.” Though invisible, he will still be very much fully involved in the life of his Church for he has become and “remains for ever Emmanuel”—God with us! (See the conclusion of today’s Gospel passage.)
This mystery of God saving men through men continues through the centuries. It will go on till the end of time, in spite of all opposition from outside the Church, and the limitations, defects and failures in the leaders and other members of the Church. Such is the “strategy” adopted by God. We have no alternative. And it is simply fascinating to reflect on the fact that God should hold us in such a high esteem as to make us His associates in the fulfillment of His plan of salvation.