A reflection based on Matthew 28:16-20 The great commission
In this reading from Matthew’s Gospel we come to this post resurrection vignette of Jesus’ last act of ministry which focuses on instructing his disciples to baptise in the name of the triune God. We hear that the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain as Jesus had instructed and when they saw him they worshipped him but some doubted.
Jesus said to the disciples;
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations baptising them in the name of the Father and of the son and of the holy spirit and remember I am with you always to the end of the age.”
In this reflection I want to draw out three things. Firstly that some doubted, secondly that they were called to baptise and thirdly that Jesus tells the disciples, ‘I am with you always to the end of the age.
Before we dive into those things I want to just take a few moments to reflect on the context in which we are listening to this passage. I don’t know about you but for me it is easy to imagine that perhaps we are the disciples that are living at the ‘end of the age’.
We see political, religious, financial and governance paradigms disintegrating, we see the monumental damage we have inflicted on our planet, we see the pressures of 21st century on people’s health and well being, many are isolated and disempowered and we all, at some level, sense that things cannot go on according to the old world view! And as if all of that were not enough to suggest ‘a change is a comin’ we are right in the middle of a global pandemic which has brought into sharp relief the possibility that change of global proportions is already on our doorstep. Through it all we have the best and the worst of human behaviour. We have seen heart warming examples of service to the community, acts of kindness abounding and altruistic loss of life that others might live. Yet we have also seen selfish rule breaking, supermarket shelves emptying and other grasping, greedy behaviours in order that the self might be served.
So if that is our context how might Jesus’ words speak to us…
The first point I want to draw out is that we are told that ‘some doubted’.
But what does that mean? Well to doubt in Jesus is to doubt in the hope of the transformational possibilities for us and indeed for the entire cosmos. We should understand that the change that Jesus promises is not about rearranging the furniture, it’s about reconciling all of creation. Our minds cannot yet comprehend this but it is a hope beyond our wildest dream.
Another way to think about doubt is to equate it with our sense of separation from God. This doubt is a consciousness that is very much associated with the ‘old paradigm’ ie. God is remote from us therefore the self has to take care of number one! But, as we have been exploring recently, God, in Christ is not only with us but within us…the indwelling immanent Christ, whose ground is at the very core of our being! But until we wake up to that unitive realisation then we are living in a dualistic consciousness. As long as we buy the illusion that God is a separate entity we cannot help but have our doubts, the ego cannot place its full trust in God and so we arrive at all the self serving, egoic paradigms that we are currently living under but which ultimately cannot be sustained.
So the second thing that I want to draw out is that the disciples are told to go out and baptise in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. But what does that really mean? Well one way to think about this is a call to initiate people into the journey of awakening to a relationship with the Three in One. At its deepest level this means that in Christ, we are, through the unity of the Spirit at one with God.
Now if that sounds complicated you’re right it is! That’s because it’s a deep, deep mystery that no human mind can comprehend. But your mind does not have to comprehend it. In fact the mind will never understand what the soul knows. If we could just put down our need to comprehend and analyse the persons of the Trinity and narrow them into inadequate descriptors that satisfy our tiny minds then we might just begin to enter into a non dual consciousness in the depths of the soul, which after all is the very reason for Christ coming in the first place! There is no soul in which Christ’s ground is not present awaiting this great awakening.
If we could just learn to establish a regular pattern of silence within us we would increasingly come to experience the indwelling God, then the dualism is resolved. We no longer experience God as a separate entity and a new unitive consciousness is born. We now live in the spirit of truth and not in the illusion of separation!.
And so to the third thing I want to draw out is, ‘I am always with you to the end of the age’
As I said earlier, many people have an intuitive inkling at this time that we are approaching the end of the old order of things. If we were to sum up what that old order is we might say it is the ‘order of dualistic consciousness’. One of the great signs that points to this current age coming to an end is that people of all faiths and of none are waking up, people are seeing the ego and its self centered motivations at the heart of life, culture and institutions. Deep down we know that this is not sustainable and if anything ever portends that the end of this age nigh it is the heartfelt cry across the globe, arising out of the Covid pandemic ‘We are all in this together’.
As the end of this age unfolds our notion that Christ is with us in a dualistic sense is lost (hence ‘ I am with you till the end of the age’). But Christ does not leave us -.remember the promise – ‘I am always with you’. Rather as a new era dawns, we awaken to a new unitive relationship in Christ that Paul points to in Galatians 2:20…’It is not I who live but Christ who lives in me’.
And I believe that this shift in consciousness for Christians is precisely what Karl Rahner points to with the words “The Christian of the future will be a mystic or he will not exist at all.”
So as we watch a new sense of community emerging that seeks the common good, that understands that we really are ‘all this together’; as we see new paradigms emerging that recognise the interconnectedness between spirit and matter we should truly rejoice that the end of the age draws near.
As disciples of Christ, may we truly know for ourselves the unitive fullness of life in with God, in Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit and may this underpin our understanding of the great commission.