“And remember, I am with always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).
Jesus’ words at the end of the Gospel of Matthew focus on the church’s mission, on the famous “Great Commission.” The eleven are sent into the world to “make disciples,” to baptize and to teach. All authority is given to Jesus, and he in turn sends his own followers to do his work in the world.
But Jesus’ closing words are more personal and less programmatic. As they move forward in mission, Jesus’ followers will need to stay connected to him. The Holy Scriptures; the Sacraments; prayer and intercession: all are means given by God to connect us in Christ. “The Apostles’ teaching and fellowship” is our shorthand for these elements of connection.
We can accept this connection as a given. After all, Jesus does not add an “if” here: “if you are faithful” or “if you are perfect”. He is simply with us always. At the end of Shusaku Endo’s novel Silence, the apostasy of the Jesuit priest and the proscription of Christianity in Japan has not obliterated the presence of Jesus Christ. He is with us always because he is alive, not dead. He lives in the present tense, not in the past; we can lose sight of him but he does not lose sight of us.
- Bishop John