JESUS IS WITH US
Matthew hasn’t wanted to end his Gospel narration with the story of the Ascension. His Gospel, redacted in difficult and critical conditions for the believing communities, sought an ending that is different from that of Luke.
A naïve and mistaken reading of the Ascension could create in those communities the sensation of being orphaned and abandoned in the face of Jesus’ definitive departure. That’s why Matthew ends his Gospel with the unforgettable phrase of the risen Jesus: «Look, I am with you always; yes, to the end of time».
This is the faith that has always animated the Christian communities. We aren’t alone, lost in the midst of history, abandoned to our own powers and our sin. Christ is with us. In moments like those in which we Christians today are living, it’s easy to fall into lamentations, discouragement and defeatism. It’s said that we have forgotten something that we urgently need to remember: he is with us.
The Bishops, gathered on the occasion of Vatican II, confirmed the lack of a true theology of Christ’s presence in his Church. The concern to defend and make precise our understanding of the presence of Christ’s Body and blood in the Eucharist has been able to lead us to unconsciously forget the living presence of the risen Lord in the heart of the whole Christian community.
However for the first Christians, Jesus isn’t a personage of the past, someone dead whom we venerate and worship, but someone alive, who animates, enlivens and fills the believing community with his spirit.
When two or three believers gather in his name, there he is in their midst. The encounters of believers aren’t assemblies of orphaned people who try to encourage each other. In their midst is the Risen One, with his encouragement and dynamic force. To forget that is to risk weakening our hope at its root.
There’s still more. When we encounter a person in need, rejected or abandoned, we are encountering the one who wanted to be in solidarity with them in a radical way. That’s why our actual adhesion to Christ is best verified in no place better than in the help and solidarity with the one in need. «Whatever you did to one of these least ones, you did to me».
The risen Lord is in the Eucharist nourishing our faith. He is in the Christian community instilling his Spirit and driving the mission. He is in the poor, moving our hearts to compassion. He is there always, even to the end of time.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf