May 29, 2015

Rejoice in the Lord

Our doubts do not excuse us from carrying on Christ’s work

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin

“When they all saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted”
(Mt 28:17).

The Gospel for next Sunday (the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity) reminds us that the 11 Apostles who were given the responsibility to “make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:19) were not superheroes. They were weak human beings who were able to work miracles and do great things only because of the power of God.

St. Matthew’s Gospel tells us that the Apostles went to a mountain in Galilee in response to Jesus’ instructions. When they saw the risen Jesus, Matthew tells us that they worshiped him. But they also doubted. Like many of us, their faith was uncertain. They saw him, and they expressed to him their love, affection and homage, but they still had their doubts. Is this really the man we knew and loved, or is it some kind of illusory wish fulfillment, a form of collective self-deception?

Jesus does not allow them to wallow in uncertainty. He gives them a mission. It is no ordinary mission, but a task that far exceeds what would normally be expected of this weak and timid group of followers even under the best of circumstances. How is it possible that these uneducated, inexperienced and doubting disciples could transform the world? By what authority, and with what resources, can these unlikely Apostles and evangelists spread the Gospel throughout the entire world?

“All power in heaven and on Earth has been given to me” (Mt 28:18), the risen Lord tells them. “Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:19). The disciples are commissioned by the Lord to do impossible things in his name. They are empowered by the Holy Spirit to baptize in the name of the Most Holy Trinity, the one God who in his very nature is a perfect communion of loving persons.

By this power—and not by their own efforts—the Eleven are able to preach the Good News, to heal the sick and unsettled, to forgive sins, and to touch the minds and hearts of men and women from every region on Earth.

Trinity Sunday calls attention to the mystery of God’s inner life, to the unity in diversity that is at the heart of all being. But those who wish to follow Jesus (including you and me) are not permitted to engage in a lot of idle speculation. We have work to do. We must move beyond our comfort zones, as Pope Francis reminds us regularly.

We must break down the walls that separate us from those who are different from us, from those whose actions and lifestyles are unacceptable to us, and from those who reject our beliefs and values. By what authority, and with what resources, do we share our faith with “all nations”? How can we who have our own questions and doubts speak the truth to those who see things very differently than we do?

By ourselves, it is impossible, but with God’s help all things are possible. By opening our hearts to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we can share in the power that has been given to Jesus by his Father in heaven. By accepting our baptismal responsibility to make disciples of all nations, we can proclaim the Gospel in our daily lives through our words and our actions. We can bring Christ to others, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and we can teach our sisters and brothers—here at home and even in foreign lands—to observe all that the Lord has commanded.

The triune God is a great mystery that we will never fully understand, but we don’t have to comprehend God’s nature to help carry out his work. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are empowered to teach in spite of our doubts, to heal in spite of our own wounds, and to transform cultures in spite of the resistance we encounter at every turn.

“And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Mt 28:20b). We are not expected to do Christ’s work all by ourselves. He is with us always. And we’re not expected to accomplish great things through our own efforts.

Our Lord has shared with us all power in heaven and on Earth. He has commissioned us to transform the world by the power of his grace. He stands with us—closer to us than we are to ourselves—as we work to make all things new: in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. †

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