“Go, therefore, and make
disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, … and behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
These are the last words of Matthew’s
These are the last words of Jesus.
Last words are always important.
Just as we pay special attention to the last words of Jesus on the cross before his death, so also, we must pay special attention
to the last words of Jesus before his return to his Father. There is an urgency here.
Jesus gives two commands, “Go,” “Baptize,” and makes a promise, “I am with you always.”
First He says, “Go!” Well, I am doing that part! Once again,
I am on the move this summer, having just returned from Los Gatos where I preached a retreat to the elderly Jesuits of the
California Province. And now, this week, I begin a series of five retreats which
will take me to Denmark, to Norway, to Venezuela, -- not bad for someone who speaks only Bostonian English! I finally return on August 15th and will join you again on the 16th. True, the journey holds much work, but also much joy: to go beyond my Boston horizon, to dwell for a while in other lands of charm and beauty, and to walk closely with people of many cultures
on their spiritual journey. What a powerful privilege, a baptizing in the Spirit!
When Jesus says, “Go,”
He wants us, to the best of our ability, to move out, to go beyond ourselves, go beyond our usual horizons, our “comfort
zones,” and become involved in the mission of his Gospel to the world.
I know that I have spoken to you
before of my friend, Peter, who was ordained a priest last June. He was the doctor
who gave up a promising career at the prestigious cancer research hospital, NIH in Washington, because he felt God called
him to work with the poor of El Salvador, a country then torn apart by civil war. You
may remember my telling you how he was struck down with a deadly stage four lymphoma, returned home without money or insurance,
to undergo a bone marrow transplant at Dana-Farber. In his sickness one day,
he had a dream of seeing himself walking with other cancer patients out of the sea onto land.
He saw incoming waves washing away others one by one, but he continued walking and walking until he came to a green
pasture filled with light and with dancing children. He knew then that
he would survive. Out of his new freedom he felt drawn to become a Jesuit, but
God kept him waiting, -- waiting for eight years, until finally one day God said,
“Now is the time.” This past year, Peter has been ministering in
a huge parish in New York City. But a new call has come. Just before the bloody war against the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka broke out a few months ago, Peter heard God call him to go there and work with the Jesuit Refugee Service. Now he knows the urgency of the call with thousands of Tamils uprooted from their homes. He knows, as he put it, that he is going into the eye of the storm.
A new horizon? Of course! What will it be like for a man, now in his mid-fifties,
to move into a land, a culture, a language, a religion, (Hindu) – all unknown to him, -- to live with a persecuted minority,
the Tamils, and eat food which he may not like?
(His only concession is bringing a jar of peanut butter, -- just in case!) Surely,
this is answering the Father’s call to go beyond every known horizon for the sake of the Gospel. And all he can offer is a loving, caring presence.
We obviously think of horizons
horizontally. Horizons are “out there.” But there are also vertical horizons that go downwards into our being.
We cannot make disciples of others out there unless we are disciples inside ourselves.
That is the inward, downward, journey of allowing ourselves to be drawn more and more into the mind of God and into
the heart of Jesus. It means being more intentionally God-focused in our desires,
thoughts, and actions. Love, loving action, is the sign of such a discipleship.
Most of us will never be asked,
like my friend, Peter, to go to those further horizons of ministry, but all of us are called to go deeper vertically beyond
the horizon where we currently dwell. Inwardly, there are horizons beyond horizons
to keep moving toward. We can never stop and be satisfied. There in our soul we meet the Trinity, one God in three persons, because it is the Father who calls, it
is the Spirit who gives the courage to respond, and it is Jesus who companions us, as he promised, “Behold I am with
I close by quoting the poet, Rainer
Maria Rilke, who expressed this call, courage, and companionship so well when he has God say to us,
“You, sent out beyond your
go to the limits of your longing.
Flare up like flame
Let everything happen to you:
beauty and terror.
Just keep going. …
Don’t let yourself lose
Give me your hand.”