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Gospel for Sunday, May 26: Matthew 28:16-20

Feast of the Holy Trinity

16 The eleven disciples, meanwhile, went to Galilee, to the mountain that Jesus had appointed for them.17 When they saw him, they prostrated themselves before him; but some doubted.18 And Jesus drew near and said to them, ”All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. Behold, I am with you all days, even to the end of the world.”

Mt 28:16-20

Care sorelle e fratelli della Misericordie, sono Carlo Miglietta, medico, biblista, laico, marito, padre e nonno ( Anche oggi condivido con voi un breve pensiero di meditazione sul Vangelo, con speciale riferimento al tema della misericordia.

There are three concluding themes in Matthew’s Gospel: the power of the Son of Man, the universal mission of the Church, and the presence of the risen Lord in his community.

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These last words of Matthew introduce us to the time of the Church. Their interest is ecclesial, not Christological. In fact, the appearance of Jesus is recounted in passing: “and seeing him.” It is not on it that the emphasis falls: the evangelist is no longer interested in convincing of the reality of the resurrection (this has been done before), but in showing the consequences that flow from the resurrection for the faith of the Church.

The full manifestation of Jesus takes place in Galilee, where the disciples had been invited to go (Mt 26:32; 28:7-10). Why in Galilee? Probably to make it clear that Jerusalem had ceased to be the center of worship and religiosity. Since then access to God, to the true temple, was no longer confined to a place (“neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem”: Jn 4:21) but to a person, Jesus Christ.

The full revelation takes place “on the mountain that Jesus had set for them.” Matthew does not inform us about this detail in his Gospel. We know of no mountain that Jesus had set before them; the mountain is remembered solely for its symbolism: the mountain is the place of revelation. The revelation of God in the Old Testament took place on Mount Sinai. The revelation of Jesus, the new Moses, took place on the Mount of Beatitudes, where he manifests his teaching and moral demands, and on the Mount of Galilee, where he manifests his authority and mission.

The power of the Son of Man

The first word of the Risen Jesus is a revelation, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” With this Jesus declares that he is the fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy concerning the Son of Man: “Behold, there appears on the clouds of heaven one like a son of man…” (Dan 7:13-14). This “universal lordship” of the risen Lord is the root from which the universality of mission flows. Jesus’ entire brief discourse is dominated by the idea of wholeness and universality. Making disciples among all nations does not mean, necessarily, that everyone must be converted. What matters is that God’s people be “among all nations,” perhaps a minority, but among all nations.

The mission of Christians

The mission of Christians is made explicit in the Word of Jesus: “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. Behold, I am with you all days, even to the end of the world” (Mt 28:19-20).

Some remarks on this mandate. The Lord’s command should be translated not, “Teach,” but more properly, “Make disciples of all nations” (Matheùsate panta ta èthne). “Make disciples” is according to the Hebrew sense: the disciple became a member of the Rabbi’s family, the bond he established with him was stronger than blood ties. Jesus also behaves this way toward those who follow him: “Someone said to him, ‘Here is outside your mother and your brothers who want to speak to you.’ And he, answering those who informed him, said, “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?” Then stretching out his hand toward his disciples he said, ‘Behold my mother and behold my brethren; for whoever does the will of my Father who is in heaven, that is brother and sister and mother to me’” (Mt. 12:47-50). “Matheùsate” therefore does not mean to transmit a teaching, but to include in a vital experience: it is therefore equivalent to: “Make members of the Master’s family,” “Make his intimates, his dearest friends, his brothers.” This is why the specific purpose of mission is the “plantatio ecclesiae,” the foundation of the Church (Ad gentes, no. 6), which is the “family of God”: “So then you are no longer strangers (pàroikoi) or guests, but you are fellow citizens of the saints and family members (ed. note the pun) of God” (Eph. 2:19); “we work good toward all, especially toward family members (oikeìous) in the faith” (Gal. 6:10); because “his house (oikòs) is us, if we preserve the hope and freedom we boast of” (Heb. 3:6).

Note well: “Matheùsate” is aorist, expressing operational dynamism, and is therefore equivalent to: “Never cease to be members of the family of God.” Our task is therefore to make all people become God’s friends, and to receive the “joyful news” of being his beloved children.

Jesus’ command in Matthew’s Gospel expresses the manner of this call with three participles, translated as gerunds in Italian. The first of them, “andando” (poreuenthèntes), expresses the properly missionary aspect, that, as Pope Francis says, of “an outgoing Church”: we are not told that others will come to us, but that we will have to move, first of all going out of ourselves, and then out of our communities, groups, parishes, to go to the far away. We cannot sit idly by, holed up in our securities: we must expose ourselves, questioning ourselves, on the way, in exodus to people.

The second Greek participle, also later translated into Italian with a gerund, states, “Immersing them in the name (baptìzontes autoùs eis to ònoma) of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” Let us not immediately emphasize the sacramental aspect of the term (“baptizing them”): let us first be won over by its literal meaning, which is “immersing them in the name.” For Hebrews, the name indicates the essence, the innermost nature (Gen. 2:19-20): and God’s essence is Love (1 Jn. 4:8): God is nothing but Agape, that is, that most pure, oblative, total Love, of which the Eucharist is the sacrament.

“Immersing all peoples in the Name” means making the brothers and sisters experience the tenderness of God’s Love, making them taste its sweetness, covering them in a dimension of charity and service, that is, it means making them feel loved by God, since we are the mediators and the means for this experience. This is why the Church is sent to the world to preach conversion by casting out demons and healing the sick (Mark 6:13).

Announcing the One who is Love (1 Jn. 4:8), the Church will first have to be a visible witness to him: “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn. 13:35). Do we give the world this sign? We are recognized as His own by the intensity of love that reigns in the Church, by our washing one another’s feet (Jn. 13:14), by our welcoming one another, forgiving one another, honoring one another, living among one another that charity that “is patient, is benign . .., is not envious…, is not boastful, is not puffed up, is not disrespectful, does not seek its own interest, is not angry, does not take account of evil received, does not rejoice in injustice…, which all covers, all believes, all hopes, all endures” (1 Cor. 13:4-7)?

And then the implementation of the third participle of the command can begin: “teaching them (didàskontes autoùs) to observe all that I have commanded you”: the catechetical aspect of mission.

The purpose of the Church’s mission is thus to introduce all people to the Eucharistic dimension, that is, to make them adhere to Christ, to experience him, to make them fall in love with him, his Person and his Word.

The purpose of mission is “to make disciples,” is the most succinct and correct definition of Christian existence: the Christian is a disciple. It is not a matter of offering a message, but of establishing a close and personal relationship with Christ: the disciple attaches himself to the person of the master and commits himself to share his life project. Disciples do not teach something of their own, but only “all that he has commanded.”

The Trinitarian formula is striking. The baptism took place “in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 2:38): but it is the formula we will later find in the Didache (VII:1), and it is particularly solemn and theologically summarizing.

The presence of the risen Lord in his community

The Gospel ends as it had begun. At first we were announced the name of Emmanuel, “God with us,” as had been announced by the prophet Isaiah (Mt 1:23; Is 8:8,10). Now we are assured that that prophecy has become a permanent reality: “I will be with you until the end of the world” (Mt 28:20). In other words, Jesus continues to be the Emmanuel, the God with us.

Buona Misericordia a tutti!

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