The Gospel for this Sunday is only 5 verses. But it offers us much for reflection.
Vs. 16 “The eleven disciples…” recalls the tragic defection of Judas Iscariot.
“…to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them.” Mountains play a significant role in Matthew’s Gospel:
Mountains play a significant role in Matthew’s Gospel:
Matthew arranges his Gospel around seven mountains. These mountains are 1) the mountain of the temptation (Matt 4:1-11) Satan leads Jesus to a “very high mountain” and offers him “all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor” (4:8). This suggests a tendency in Matthew’s Gospel to emphasize mountains as settings for strategic moments in Jesus’ ministry.) 2) The mountain of the beatitudes Matt 5:1), 3) the mountain of the separation (Matt 14:23), 4) the mountain of the feeding in the wilderness (Matt 15:29), 5) the mountain of the transfiguration (Matt 17:1), 6) the mountain of the Olivet discourse (Matt 24:3), and 7) the mountain of the commissioning (Matt 28:16).
What are we to make of the different accounts of the texts of the Ascension of Jesus in Acts, Luke, Mark, John and the Gospel for today Matthew. First the texts.
Acts 1:3, 6-12
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. (The footnote in the NABr is informative regarding this verse and other accounts: Appearing to them during forty days: Luke considered especially sacred the interval in which the appearances and instructions of the risen Jesus occurred and expressed it therefore in terms of the sacred number forty (cf. Dt 8:2). In his gospel, however, Luke connects the ascension of Jesus with the resurrection by describing the ascension on Easter Sunday evening (Lk 24:50–53). What should probably 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 (Lk 24:50–53) and signals the beginning of the time of the church.
6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. 10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” 12 Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city.
50 When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. 52 Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. 53 And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God. (End of Luke’s Gospel)
19 After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. 20 Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it. (from the Addition to Mark)
John 20:17(with Mary Magdalene)
17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’
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.”
1) In today’s Gospel from Matthew the Ascension is implied but not stated.
2) The Resurrection appearances in the Gospels are not duplicated by any of the Evangelists. They are all independent. The same can be said of the Ascension appearances.
3) Not only must it be said that Luke historicized, so did the other Evangelists.
4) Interpretation of the Gospels must always take into account they are writing to different communities, they are writing at different years, they are distinct personalities with distinctive styles and emphases.
5) Again from the footnotes in the NABr “(Mt 28:11–15), marks a new stage in the mission of the disciples once limited to Israel (Mt 10:5–6); now they are to make disciples of all nations.”
6) What a grandiose sweep is found in the final text of Matthew’s Gospel: “they worshiped, but they doubted” consoling words for us on our way. “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me” “Make disciples of All nations” teaching them to observe All that I have commanded you” “I am with you Always, until the end of the age”.
7) Finally the Gospel swings back to Chapter 1: 23 the Prophet said “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,”which means “God is with us.” Jesus has ascended, we are to participate in his life, teachings, example while we are on this earth and know that God is With Us. How is he with us? See Pentecost and the sending of HIS SPIRIT.
Pope Francis is fond of saying: “We are not living in an era of change, but a change of era. (It is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius…) Much speculation now about what it will be like after the Covid 19. Something to really ponder. If you come upon something that stands out on this subject, please forward to me.
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