Sunday, May 31, 2015



Dt 4, 32-34. 39-40
Ps 33
Rom 8, 14-17
Mt 28, 16-20

St. Mary’s Church, Marlboro, N.Y.
May 31, 2015
Deacon Tom Cornell

The eleven disciples set out for Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had arranged to meet them.  When they saw him they fell down before him, though some hesitated.  Jesus came up and spoke to them.  He said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations; baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you.  And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.”  (JB trans.)
                    Today’s reading from Deuteronomy has Moses address the Hebrew people after they had been led out of Egypt, after the Covenant, the Ten Commandments had been given at Mount Sinai, as they were about to enter the Promised Land.  God had to remind them again and again through Moses: there is but one God who led you out of slavery.  There is no other! One!   Keep my commandments, not the Ten Suggestions, but Ten Commandments.  God had to call the People back, time and time again.  Many fell away.  But to the Jews who remain faithful to the ancient Covenant to this day, the one-ness of God is the depth of mystery, the rock of their faith.  (Hassidic Jews today sing a song that goes, “Einer iz Gott, un Gott iz einer, un wayter keiner!”  “One is God and God is one and beyond him none!”) 
          To the Muslins too, the one-ness of God is central.  (I’ll never forget how fourteen year old Ahmed’s face shone when he said to me, “Allah waheed!”  “God is one,” as he pressed his prayer beads into my hand. His faith was palpable.)  It is hard for Jews and Muslims, to say nothing of atheists and agnostics, to understand that we Christians too believe that God is one -- and also that God is three.  One God, three divine persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  How can that be?  That’s not for me to say.  It is for me to believe, because Jesus, who rose from the dead, said so in today’s Gospel.  In John’s Gospel it’s even clearer, “I and the Father are one.”  And it has been the teaching of the Church since the beginning.  It’s a faith our ancestors went to the Coliseum for.  Persecution has followed the course of the Church, and the blood of martyrs has been the seed of Christians since the beginning.
          Upon seeing the risen Lord on that mountain in Galilee, some of the eleven doubted, or hesitated.  The original Greek word literally says they stood in two places (edisastan), confused, as if not knowing which way to turn.  It should be a comfort to you and me to know that even those who walked the earth with Jesus, who ate and drank with him and witnessed his many miracles had moments of doubt.  Without doubt there cannot be belief.  We believe because we wish to believe, we will to believe.  But even this desire is not of our own but a grace, a free gift of God.  In his love, God always makes the first move.  Take his gift and be glad, and share it! 
          The disciples went out and did as Jesus told them, out to all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of he Son and of the Holy Spirit, the Triune God.  All nations are now God’s special children, brothers and sisters in Christ, one family, each and every one an actual or a potential member of the Mystical Body of Christ. 
          For many Christians, these are hard times; persecution of Christians has seldom been so widespread or vicious even in the land of Jesus’ birth.  The age of martyrs is not over.  Archbishop Oscar Romero died a martyr’s death for the Faith thirty-five years ago.  Last week a quarter of a million people gathered in San Salvador, four national presidents and six cardinals of the Church, to witness his beatification.  It’s on the front page of today’s issue of Catholic New York.  Not everyone is happy about that.  Learn that history, if you don’t already know it, and ask yourself why. 
          The last line of Matthew’s Gospel is a promise that will be kept.  “I am with you always, yes, even to the end of time.”  We are not alone.  We will never be alone.  And after the last empire crumbles, the Church will still stand, even until the last day when all will be made new, even us.