When you hear the “Great Commission” what is the prominent part that resonates with you? “Go” – “make disciples” – “Baptizing” – “teaching” – the declaration of the Holy Trinity: “Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit?”
The Great Commission continues “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold…” In my experiment of asking people to finish the sentence most replied “I will be with you until the end…” But the ending is different: I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
Not the future tense, but the present tense – and in the Greek, just in case you wondered, it is a present continuous tense meaning now and moving into the future. When I think about it, that shouldn’t be surprising to us. Our only hope of fulfilling the great commission – sharing the good news of God’s grace in Christ with the world through word and deed and welcoming all into fellowship through Baptism – is by keeping in mind the great promise: Christ is with us. Even now. Even here. Even amid our struggles at home or at work or in our parishes, or in the world. Christ is with us. Encouraging us, comforting us, working with us, guiding us, granting us the grace and courage necessary to be the people of God in the world right now.
Is God with you now? Do you have a sense that you are in the presence of God as you go through your day? Your normal just-about-the-same-as-yesterday day? What about the could-this-get-any-better-day? But what about all the other times. Good times, less than good times, festive times, sad times, expectant times, anxious times. Do we sense God’s presence?
And there the days in the midst of tragedy and loss – as we call upon God for help – do we sense God is present? Or do we wonder if God hears us, is busy, not paying attention, distant, or simply not showing up when we think we need Him most?
This week Fr. Zack and I were called to provide spiritual support for families involved in the Bayshore street-racing death of a mom and her 21-month old baby. One family facing the known loss as their loved ones passed into God’s arms. The other family facing the unknown of the fate of their son whose life is forever changed in the same moment of time.
It was also a week when one parishioner awaited surgery on a blood clot in the heart; another the results of a brain scan; another the long-anticipated birth of another baby; another prayers for a mom passed away; others celebrating graduations and the next phase of adventure in life; another in rehab; another in marital crisis; couples preparing for marriage; families getting ready for a long weekend; and folks that just had a regular ol’ week.
All the people we met with this week, did they sense God’s presence? I expect some did, but others perhaps did not. This is when I need to remind myself, the promise is: “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Right here, right now, and forever.
Right here along with the promise that the Holy Spirit would come – has come, as we celebrated last week in Pentecost – and would be with us. Right now along with the covenant promise from of old that we are His children, and He is our Father in heaven. We are the family of God bound to the One who does far more than create, redeem and sanctify (as great as these things are in themselves!). The Triune God whose most basic characteristic is Love. The Trinity whose ongoing activity is to remind us of God’s promise in Christ to be with us and for us always, to help us believe that promise, and to encourage us to live in the confidence it grants.
The Trinity is at the core of the Divine Life; as their shared, mutual, and sacrificial love spills out into the world and all the people, is at the core of our life. And behold, all this is with us now. In loss and uncertainty, joy and sorrow, days and nights and all that makes up this caldron called life. With us now to be the ones who are present and listening, holding a hand, praying, offering words of support during the death of loved ones, loss of innocence, the long wait for diagnosis and surgery, the moments before giving birth, celebrations and transitions, the crises, and the long weekends, and in the regular ol’ things of life.
God with us. Encouraging us, comforting us, working with us, guiding us, granting us the grace and courage necessary to be the people of God in the world right now.
“And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Ultimately, it is the promise we are asked to make to each other. As the promise given to us binds, provides hope, gives courage and endurance, forgives, and encourages – this is what we are called to promise to each other.
In the 16th century, St. Teresa of Avila wrote: “Christ has no body but yours, no hands, no feet on earth but yours, Yours are the eyes with which he looks Compassion on this world, Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good, Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world…”
Each of us is commissioned to be the presence of God in the world, to fulfill the promise given to each of us. Christ is with us. Encouraging us, comforting us, working with us, guiding us, granting us the grace and courage necessary to be the people of God in the world right now. Now and to the end of the age.