This Sunday, take special notice of the introduction to the GOSPEL READING [MATTHEW 28: 16 – 20]. Instead of the usual ”

a reading from …” we hear the proclamation “The conclusion of the holy Gospel according to Matthew.” The very end of Matthew’s record of THE GOOD NEWS tells us of the commission the Lord gives to the disciples. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them … teaching them … and behold, I am with you always, to the close of the age.

This mandate is an absolutely essential part of the

GOOD NEWS. It is of basic importance for us to accept that there is an order of precedence. We do not baptise and teach in order to make disciples. Rather we MAKE disciples in order that they may be baptised and taught. After baptism there remains a great deal for disciples to learn in order that they may grow – and develop into disciples whom in their own turn could GO and MAKE.

If we think carefully on the last few reflections, it should be clear that at the very beginning the preaching of The Twelve and the first Deacons was focussed on making disciples by presenting Jesus Christ as

ALIVE, and by speaking of the kingdom of God. Once those who listened decided that they, too, wished to BE disciples they were then baptised. After that, one of the apostles “laid hands on them” (the Sacrament of Confirmation) and they were admitted to the Lord’s Table of Eucharist.

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them … teaching them … .” There still was

much to teach but because they became disciples everyone was eager to be taught and to learn – in order that they may also go and make!

Somehow or other, over the last few centuries, it would seem that much of the Church’s ministry has forgotten the fundamental order of precedence. In many ways we have created a few generations of passive receivers who do not really see themselves as disciples with a vision of themselves called to

GO AND MAKE! There have been, praise God, positive signs of readjustment. For example, the traditional ‘convert instruction class{what an impoverishing description of going and making!} has been replaced with the RCIA (rite for the Christian initiation of adults) process. The convert class sought to ‘make’Catholics while the RCIA programme focusses on CHRISTIAN initiation. It needs to be said that most RCIA programmes offer a splendid opportunity for existing and practising Catholics to update, renew and grow their faith. Perhaps it is possible, if the time the scheduled gatherings are inconvenient for some, for a slightly abbreviated and alternative Course to be offered.

Now let us think on the opening words of

TODAY’S FIRST READING [ACTS 1: 1 – 11]. There, Saint Luke refers to the contents of “the first book” – his version of the Gospel-Good-News. He tells Theophilus (an unknown person) that in this first book “I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commandment … to the apostles whom he had chosen.” These words are of paramount importance. First of all we should recognise that “until the day” is a clear reference to the ASCENSION – the feast we celebrate this Sunday. Then, note the words “(what) Jesus began to do and teach.” What Jesus BEGAN is clearly indicative of the fact that his work had, after the Ascension, to be completed and brought to fruition. Then, on the day of Ascension, he had given commandment to the chosen apostles.. What commandment was given other than the mandate already mentioned as recorded in today’s Gospel extract – “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them … teaching them … ?” His work of doing and teaching had to be continued by the Church. THE ASCENSION REMINDS US THAT THE PRESENT, THE NOW, IS OUR TIME. Let us never forget it. It is time for us to grow-up. It is no use merely standing there and “looking into heaven.” Time now for us to really become disciples and then GO OUT and make new disciples.

Has our ‘initiation’ into Christian discipleship really equipped us to do this? If not, we have a personal responsibility to do something about it? Do words from

TODAY’S SECOND READING [EPHESIANS 1: 17 – 23] truly resonate in and through us? “May God …. give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him … your hearts enlightened … know what is the hope to which he called you.

Our focus must not be ‘to make Catholics’ but to make disciples with a profound faith in Jesus as the Christ (the Messiah) and as the divine Deliverer from sin. This is exactly what the first apostles, deacons, and disciples went out to do. What Jesus had

BEGUN to do and teach they continued.

Today’s Gospel reminds us to “observe all that I have commanded you; and behold I am with you always.” This, indeed, is the language of Ascension – so, “go and make disciples.”

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