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Resurrection Fourth Sunday

Season of Resurrection

Fourth Sunday: MATTHEW 28:16-20
I WILL BE WITH YOU TILL END OF THE WORLD

INTRODUCTION

After the resurrection, Jesus appeared to the eleven apostles on a mountain in Galilee. They worshipped him, acknowledging his divinity. Jesus asserted his God-given authority in heaven and on earth. He then delegated his power and responsibility to preach the gospel and baptize those who accept it. He also promised his presence and support to the disciples, who have to evangelize people in all nations until the end of this world.

Besides the missionaries, priests, and consecrated persons, the lay people also have a major role in the continuation of evangelization. “Since, like all the faithful, lay Christians are entrusted by God with the apostolate by virtue of their Baptism and Confirmation, they have the right and duty, individually or grouped in associations, to work so that the divine message of salvation may be known and accepted by all men throughout the earth. This duty is the more pressing when it is only through them that men can hear the Gospel and know Christ. Their activity in ecclesial communities is so necessary that, for the most part, the apostolate of the pastors cannot be fully effective without it” (CCC 900).

BIBLE TEXT

The Great Commission

(Mt 28:16) As for the Eleven disciples, they went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. (17) When they saw Jesus, they worshipped him, although some doubted. (18) Then Jesus approached them and said, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. (19) Go, therefore, and make disciples from all nations. Baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, (20) and teach them to fulfill all that I have commanded you. I am with you always until the end of this world.”

INTERPRETATION 

Background

According to Matthew’s gospel, when Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to the tomb of Jesus on Sunday early morning, the angel of the Lord guarding the empty tomb told them that Jesus rose from the dead. The angel requested them to report the resurrection of the Lord to the disciples and ask them to go to Galilee, where they will meet him. On their way to see the disciples, Jesus met the ladies and gave the same instruction that the disciples must go to Galilee where he would meet them (Mt 28:1-10).

(Mt 28:16) As for the Eleven disciples, they went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go.

As for the Eleven disciples

The disciples were only eleven because Judas committed suicide. They added Mathias as part of the college of apostles only later.

They went to Galilee

According to Matthew, the angel of the Lord at the tomb and the Risen Lord, who appeared to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, had instructed them to inform the disciples to go to Galilee where Jesus would meet them (Mt 28:7, 10). Galilee was the major region of Jesus’ ministry and he had predicted that he would go there after his resurrection (Mt 26:32). However, this appearance in Galilee must be after his appearances in Judea during the initial weeks after his resurrection, as the other evangelists report.

to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go.

The evangelist did not specify the mountain for the readers, though Jesus might have specified one to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary. It could be Mount Tabor, Hermon, or Mount of the Beatitudes, where Jesus spent time with his disciples. The mountain can be theologically more significant than a geographical location. It symbolized Mount Sinai, where God revealed Himself to Moses (Ex 24:12-18) and to Elijah (1 Kgs 19:8-18).

(17) When they saw Jesus, they worshipped him, although some doubted.

some doubted

People doubted when they saw the Risen Lord for two reasons. They did not expect the resurrection of Jesus, though he had predicted that several times. Since the risen body had distinctive features, the disciples had difficulty in recognizing the Risen Lord and suspected him as a gardener, traveler, or a ghost.

1. When the Risen Lord first appeared to Mary Magdalene, she did not know it was Jesus and thought it was the gardener. Only when Jesus called her by name, she recognized him (Jn 20:14-16).

2. When the Risen Lord joined the two disciples who were going to Emmaus, “their eyes were prevented from recognizing him” (Lk 24:16). They thought he was a pedestrian like them. While dining, Jesus blessed the bread, broke it, and gave it to them. “With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight” (Lk 24:31).

3. When Jesus appeared to the disciples in Jerusalem who were talking about his resurrection appearances, “they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost” (Lk 24:37). “They were still incredulous for joy and were amazed” (Lk 24:41). Jesus ate baked fish in front of them to convince them he was not a ghost (Lk 24:42-43). “Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures” (Lk 24:45).

4. When Jesus appeared to seven disciples at the Sea of Tiberias while fishing, they did not realize that it was Jesus (Jn 21:4). At his question, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?” (Jn 21:5), they thought he was a customer who came to buy fish from them. Later, John recognized Jesus and told Peter that it was Jesus (Jn 21:7).

The disciples had difficulty in believing the resurrection of Jesus.

1. When Mary Magdalene who saw the Risen Lord reported that to the companions of Jesus, they did not believe it (Mk 16:9-11). According to Luke, “Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James; the others who accompanied them also told this to the apostles, but their story seemed like nonsense and they did not believe them” (Lk 24:10-11).

2. When the two disciples who went from Jerusalem to Emmaus returned to Jerusalem and reported their experience of seeing the Risen Lord, the apostles did not believe them (Mk 16: 12-13).

3. “Later, as the eleven were at table, he appeared to them and rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart because they had not believed those who saw him after he had been raised” (Mk 16:14).

4. When Thomas came to know from other apostles that the Risen Lord appeared to them, he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe” (Jn 20:25).

5. Jesus had to prove to people that he rose from the dead as recorded in the Acts. “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” (Acts 1:3)

The doubt of the disciples and several post-resurrection appearances of Jesus contributed as proof of the Lord’s resurrection.

they worshipped him

The disciples got more convinced of the divinity of Jesus when they saw him after his resurrection. So, they worshipped him during the post-resurrection appearances. Worship is the reverence paid to God. When Jesus accepted worship, he acknowledged his divinity. The following are some recorded instances when Jesus received worship before his death:

1. Magi: “They prostrated themselves and worshiped Him” (Mt 2:11).

2. After Jesus walked on the water, “Those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God’” (Mt 14:33).

3. Jesus appreciated the Canaanite woman’s faith who “came and worshiped Him” requesting to heal her daughter (Mt 15: 25).

4. Hosanna: “Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest” (Mt 21:9; Jn 12:13). It was an acceptance of the Messiahship of Jesus and a form of worship.

After the resurrection, the disciples worshipped Jesus more frequently:

1. When Mary Magdalene and the other Mary met the Risen Lord, “they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him” (Mt 28:9).

2. When Jesus appeared to Thomas along with the other disciples and showed him his wound marks, Thomas worshipped Jesus saying, “My Lord and My God!” (Jn 20:28).

3. When Jesus appeared to the eleven in Galilee after his resurrection, they worshipped him (Mt 28:17).

4. At the ascension of Jesus, the disciples “worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy” (Lk 24:52).

Jesus never objected to anyone voluntarily worshipping him. By that, he acknowledged he is God incarnate.

(18) Then Jesus approached them and said, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth.”

Jesus was with the Father from eternity and was involved in the world's creation. “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Col 1:15-17). According to John, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be” (Jn 1:1-3).

Jesus revealed the secret of his authority, that the Father shared with him, only to his apostles. “No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him” (Mt 11:27). Previously, Angel Gabriel had revealed to Mary, “He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Lk 1:32-33).

Jesus gained his authority in heaven and on earth through his humility and obedience. “He humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:8-11). Through his death and resurrection, Jesus has won the lordship “of both the dead and the living” (Rom 14:9).

Jesus has the highest position in heaven after his Father because he “has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven” (Heb 8:1). God positioned him, “far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion, and every name that is named not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things beneath his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church” (Eph 1:20-23).

Father entrusted judgement to his Son. “Nor does the Father judge anyone, but he has given all judgment to his Son, so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him” (Jn 5:22-23). Jesus said of himself, “He gave him power to exercise judgment, because he is the Son of Man” (Jn 5:25-27). Jesus revealed the authority he received from his Father to let the apostles know he was sharing his authority with his chosen disciples.

(19) Go, therefore, and make disciples from all nations. Baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

make disciples from all nations.

Since Jesus has power over all the universe, he authorized the eleven apostles to evangelize all the nations and make disciples from all over the world. That involves preaching and baptizing Jews and Gentiles scattered everywhere. His goal is to save all humanity because all are children of God. Before his ascension, Jesus told the disciples, “You will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

The disciples have the responsibility to evangelize all nations. Conversion and reception of baptism is a choice of the people who listen to the word of God. The evangelists shall force no one for conversion. But those who accept or reject the church shall bear the consequence of their freewill decision. “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mk 16:16).

Baptize them

“To baptize (Greek baptizein) means to ‘plunge’ or ‘immerse’; the ‘plunge’ into the water symbolizes the catechumen's burial into Christ's death, from which he rises up by resurrection with him, as ‘a new creature’” (CCC 1214). According to Paul, those “who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life” (Rom 6:3-4).

Baptism initiates one into the church and frees from original sin by the merits of Jesus Christ. “Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit (vitae spiritualis ianua), and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: ‘Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water in the word’” (CCC 1213). Baptism is necessary for the forgiveness of sins and reception of the gifts of the holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).

Baptism as a requirement for salvation is clear from the words of Jesus to Nicodemus, “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above” (Jn 3:3). The Catholic Church holds, “Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament. The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are ‘reborn of water and the Spirit’” (CCC 1257).

in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Use of the Trinitarian formula for baptism is a firm expression of the belief in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Baptism “in the name of the Father, the son, and the Holy Spirit” means submission to the Most Holy Trinity. In the past, the Israelites were “baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea” (1 Cor 10:2).

(20) “and teach them to fulfil all that I have commanded you. I am with you always until the end of this world.”

teach them to fulfil all that I have commanded you.

The disciples have the responsibility to preach the gospel to non-believes for their conversion and to continue their faith formation even after baptism. This also includes teaching the children and young people on the teachings of Jesus. Though baptism initiates a person into the church, he or she must continue observing the commandments Jesus taught.

I am with you always until the end of this world.

Another name of Jesus is Emmanuel, which means God is with us (Mt 1:23). Fulfilling this, his divine presence continues with the church and his disciples even after his ascension. He is present when his believers gather for prayer. “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Mt 18:20). He is present in the breaking of the bread or the Holy Eucharist. The Holy Spirit is also at work in the Christian faithful and the church. The presence of Jesus will continue until the end of this earthly life. So, the church and its missionary work will never cease until the second coming of Christ.

MESSAGE

1. Jesus had a succession plan for his ministry. He selected and trained 12 apostles who became pillars of the church. The church has survived around 2,000 years and it will continue until the end of the world. Most of us inherited our faith and membership in the church because of a similar succession plan of our ancestors and parents. They handed over the faith they received from their forefathers to us. Are we implementing such an action plan of transmitting faith to our coming generations

2. Evangelization is the mission that Jesus entrusted to his disciples. As the followers of Jesus, we also hold the same responsibility. How are we doing it in our family, workplace, and community?

3. Full-time missionaries are serving in different parts of the world. Most of their endeavors are in challenging locations. How can we support them?

4. Many people have lost their faith and are no more practicing religion. That will adversely affect their salvation and that of their future generations. How can we prevent this decline of faith in the society? How can we bring the ex-Christians back to the church?

5. Vocation to priesthood and religious life are at a decrease? How can we promote vocations?

6. The church promotes lay apostolate and ministries for Christian witnessing by virtue of the baptism and confirmation. How can we promote this in our parishes?

7. Evangelization and Christian witnessing are challenging. However, Jesus assured his presence and support for those who continue his mission. With that confidence, let us be the ambassadors of Jesus in our life situations.