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Resurrection Appearances – Commissioning of Disciples – Mt 28:16-20

Friday, May 03, 2013

A mountain in Galilee – and the whole Church is there, the eleven. They are there and they are torn. Their Lord, Friend and Master was killed and buried; they are devastated. But already the testimony of the women, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, who have seen him alive near the tomb, fills them again with hope. And they go on their way.

The Passion. (BBC, 2008)
A mountain in Galilee – and Jesus comes to meet his Church, living and majestic in power, resurrected. But some of them doubted. Yet it is to them that he entrusts his mission, the task of building his church, to make disciples, to baptise and raise them in the faith.

A mountain in Galilee – and it is the place of the eternal presence of God to his Church. “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (28:20). And the story of the Good News by Matthew stops there, as a silence opening onto eternity.

Twice before, the announcement of the meeting in Galilee is mentioned in this Gospel: at the Mount of Olives, at the prediction of Peter's denial (26:32) and by the angel who met the women at the tomb (28:7,10). But never, in these passages, is a mountain mentioned.

While scholars have debated the location of this mountain, with some assimilating it to the mountain of the Temptation (4:8), or that of the Transfiguration (17:1), it is clear to me that it is the place of the spiritual life of the Church.

Following our death in Adam, following sin, humanity is devastated, as are the disciples who saw their hopes of salvation crucified. By the feminine, Marian (28:1), immaculate testimony, it finds anew the Way that leads straight to Heaven. All the spirituality of the Church – and ours personally – is there on this mountain.

A mountain is earth – Adamah in Hebrew – that rises to God. Nothing surprising therefore in its biblical significance, in the choices often made to erect temples there, in the immediate spiritual meaning it conveys. And is this not what we experience in the Eucharist when the priest says "Lift up your hearts”, referring to that holy of holies of our fleshly temples?

Church of St Peter & St Paul, Chaldon, Surrey
To leave the valley of death, to leave sin, to rise, always rise, this is what spiritual life means. What this text teaches us, then, is that, despite our doubts and hesitations, despite discouragement that can sometimes break through, beyond despair, the risen Christ comes to us and stays with us to the end of the age. 

To leave the valley of tears, to leave suffering, to love, always love, this is the Christian journey. So, despite our wounds and weaknesses, sometimes despite our failures, beyond death, divine Love will join our hearts and live in us forever.

So when our mind and flesh are be impregnated with the joy of the resurrection, when our hearts are close to the Lord and when our broken bones rejoice, we will be disciples and we will be able to testify to the nations, to fetch another Adam, to offer him the healing of baptism and to invite him to do the same. It is in this way that the Church is built up. This is how the ages will be accomplished when we are all on the mountain, prostrating ourselves before the God who has saved us.

But when we deny him by sinning, turning our back to the encounter with Christ, if we fail to heed his constant appeal, deciding without him what is right for ourselves, if we fill our heart with selfishness and self-sufficiency, then hurtling down, we fall back on the Adamic ground, that of the dust and of the beasts, in Hell. There we will find Judas, dead.

It is always a matter of choice. The good Lord leaves us free. The privilege of spiritual and carnal encounter with Christ is above all a 'Fiat' – Marian, immaculate – that needs always to be given with all our soul and all our body.

And this is a prerequisite for being sent on mission.

Laurent Mathelot OP


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