Sent out on Mission
The passage from Matthew’s Gospel, which is the conclusion of this gospel, is the story of the commissioning of the disciples to carry on the mission of Jesus. It is a passage that I have returned to often for reflection and prayer. At first glance, it seems a simple, straightforward story. In fact it is multi-layered and multi-faceted.
The account begins with the disciples going back to Galilee, going to meet Jesus according to his instructions. One can only imaging the reunion. Each time the disciples met the risen Jesus they must have been filled with mixed emotions; mostly they were probably ecstatic that their master, who had died on the cross was with them again. Matthew says that when the disciples saw Jesus, they worshipped him, and rightly so. However, Matthew adds a short phrase that changes the scene and provides for rich reflection. Matthew says “but some doubted”. This is reminiscent of Thomas’ experience in the upper room right after the resurrection. Matthew does not say that any of the disciples failed to worship, just that some doubted. As I reflect on this part of the passage, I can relate to the doubters. I believe that they looked around at their friends, the other disciples and realized that they probably all had questions and doubts as well, and yet they were worshipping Jesus. They probably looked at their friends and thought “if they can believe, so can I”. It didn’t resolve their doubt, but in their hearts they knew that they were all on this journey of faith together and they could count on the support and care of the others as they all journeyed toward a deeper understanding of their experience and a deeper faith in Jesus. Community is the key for the disciples’ experience of faith.
Jesus then sends the disciples out to make disciples, to teach what he had taught them. The mission is handed on to the group of disciples – the church. It is a shared mission, and each individual could count on the care and support of the others in fulfilling the mission. Again, community is the key to living out the mission entrusted to the disciples.
Finally, Jesus reminds them that they are not alone – that he will be with them always, until the end of the age. This marvellous gift of the Lord’s presence among us enables us, as individuals and as community, to live out our vocation as disciples of Jesus, sent out on mission. For this reason we should never be afraid or hesitant to respond to God’s call to whatever vocation God is inviting us to live. We are not alone – we have one another in community and we have Jesus with us, guiding us by his Word and by the gift of the Holy Spirit.
By Richard Beaudette, OMI