My Dear Sisters and Brothers! Let us look into the Word of God, given to us on the Ascension Day, to contemplate and to be confronted with the reality of discipleship. We are still reading the Gospel passages taken from post-Resurrection period. If you were among the people who chose to participate in the long Easter Vigil on April 15, and if your brain was still absorbing the words of the Gospel then after so many readings, Psalms and prayers during that night service, you may remember that back then we had the Gospel of Matthew too. In fact we were reading the beginning of Chapter 28 which begins and ends the account of the Resurrection events. St Matthew didn’t tell us much about appearances of the Risen Jesus, but what he did tell us is very moving. It is moving today as much as it was moving 2000 years ago. It was so moving that the Apostles didn’t have time to wipe tears of joy and hope from their eyes as they were set in motion. First Mary of Magdala and another Mary went to the sepulchre. There they saw an angel descending from heaven who told them three things: “Jesus has risen,” “go back to Jesus’ disciples” and “tell them to go to Galilee.” Three things rather easy to remember, aren’t they? However as the two women were running back the Risen Lord appeared to them in person. And he reduced the three pieces of news to just one; presumably to make sure that the most important message was to be delivered to the Eleven. Do you know what that one message the Risen Lord wanted to be delivered to his disciples was? “Tell my brothers that they must leave for Galilee.” What do we read today? “The Eleven disciples set out for Galilee.” What does it mean? It means that the eleven men listened to two women. By the way I can’t get when some people say that women don’t have a voice in the Church. Right from the beginning of the Christian era women have had a strong voice in the Church. It has been a voice of evangelising women, women brining the Good News to their fellow believers: women and men alike. In the Gospel for this Solemnity of the Ascension we read that the eleven men did come to Galilee. St Matthew described them as disciples in the post-Resurrection era because they listened to the Lord’s message delivered to them by another human being. They believed that a human being could be a messenger of the Risen Lord. That’s the fundamental credential of a disciple of Jesus, being able to hear the message of Christ from the mouth of another person.
What was the message the Eleven eventually received from the Risen Christ? Not much different to the message the two ladies got on Easter morning. On the day of the Ascension, Jesus told his disciples: “As you go make disciples of all the nations.” It means: Tell the world what you have seen. St Matthew who was there among those eleven disciples and who, as we know, was a tax collector, collected, this time, the words of Christ carefully. The Evangelist tells us that Jesus didn’t send his disciples to a specific place to preach the Gospel but he made it more urgent by saying: “As you go make disciples of all the nations.” Jesus meant: As you walk away from this place start making disciples of all nations. In the post-Resurrection era disciples make disciples. If you haven’t got it yet the post-Resurrection era is our era too. In the post-resurrection era disciples make disciples wherever they are. In the post-Resurrection era disciples find a mission field at home, at work, at school, at market etc.
If I wanted to find out if someone is a disciple of the Lord I would ask the person one question: Have you been to Galilee? And I don’t mean those who have been to Israel. On the contrary I mean the Christians who have a compelling desire to make disciples of all nations. A disciple who makes disciples is the one who has been to Galilee. Like the Eleven from the Ascension Gospel.