7th Sunday Easter

This Sunday we hear again a fragment of Jesus’ table speech during the Last Supper according to Saint John’s Gospel: the so-called High Priestly Prayer of Jesus. Jesus is praying for his disciples where Ascension Day is celebrated this Sunday, Matthew 28,16-20 is read.

Matthew 28,16-20
28:16  Meanwhile the eleven disciples set out for Galilee,
to the mountain where Jesus had arranged to meet them.
28:17  When they saw him they fell down before him, though some hesitated.
28:18  Jesus came up and spoke to them.
He said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
28:19  Go, therefore, make disciples of all peoples;
baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
28:20  and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you.
And look, I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.'

These are the very last words of Matthew’s Gospel. Matthew prefers to close his Gospel with Jesus’ own words. Jesus has the last word, literally. 
The disciples set out for Galilee. That was what the angel in Jesus’ grave had said to the women, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee’ (28:7) Remarkable, in the other Gospels we hear that the disciples first didn’t believe what the women said. Here it seems that the disciples did believe them.

Some disciples hesitated when they saw Jesus. Interesting. Jesus is not the same as he was before his resurrection. We don’t recognise him by his posture, but by his words and deeds, by his spirit. And that spirit can take on very different shapes.
Jesus says, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.’ That is a reference to the way he spoke about himself during his lifetime. He called himself ‘son of man’. That was a reminiscence of a prophecy of Daniel, ‘I saw coming on the clouds of heaven as it were a son of man. [-] To him was given authority and all the peoples of the earth [-] serve him.’ That vision has become true in Jesus.
And what does he mean by ‘authority’? To answer that question we have to look back at his life: that is the authority of forgiveness, mercy, compassion, healing, new life, love. He invites his disciples to share that welldoing authority with all peoples. As if Jesus says, ‘Let all the peoples of the world experience the benefaction of that authority. Baptise them in it; submerge them in love.’

Picture Meditation

Picture - Copyright of Peter Clare

The whole picture is dominated by Jesus, clothed in red, the colour of the spirit, the colour of the fire of love. The authority which has been given to him is not made visible by a crown upon his head, but by the white dove, symbol of the Holy Spirit of Love. He is the king of all times; that is indicated by the sun and the moon. Behind Jesus, the Father is represented by another enormous sun.
In that sun a curved line is visible. Is it a rainbow, sign of God’s covenant with the people on earth? (cfr. Genesis 9:13). At the same time that curved line is a continuation of the circle which embraces the people beneath Jesus. God’s circle of life mingles with the people’s circle of life.

The earth, visible behind Jesus’ legs, belongs to that circle, but the circle is wider than the earth. The yellow warmth of the sunbeams try to reach to the most remoted people. One sunray reaches to the person who is baptised just beneath Jesus’ foot.

The people on the right are all looking up to Jesus. They are much closer to him than the people on the left side. Moreover the people on the right seem to be depicted in a lighter colour than the people on the left. These people give the impression to be on the move in the direction of Jesus. They are guided by a man, pointing at Jesus. He is clothed in the same red colour as Jesus is.

The people on the right give the impression that they did arrive already; they have the time and the rest to enjoy the vision of Jesus. Among them I see Saint Peter, just under the little sun, recognisable by his round razed hair and beard.

I take the time to look at Jesus, heading in my direction, but looking over the horizon behind me. What is my feeling, my impression? And I ask myself, ‘Is Jesus for me the representation of love? Do I hope and pray that other people receive the same blessings as I received from him?’

I look at that little red person who is guiding people to Jesus by pointing at him. Could it be me? Am I a guide to Jesus for others?

I look at all the people, represented in this painting, people in circles around Jesus. Is that a representation of the reality: are people of the world today indeed circling around Jesus? Are they on their way to him?

I have a talk with one of the people on the move on the left side; with that little guide in red; with the one who baptises or the one who is baptised; with one of the people on the right; perhaps with Peter and finally with Jesus…

Meditation by Fr Dries van den Akker S.J