This story always come to my mind as I reflect on today’s liturgy. Jesus goes up to Heaven, where he had come from. In a way, his mission is accomplished. He has done what he had come to do. And yet, simultaneously, the mission of Jesus goes on. It is still a work in progress. The only difference is that it is, now, up to us to continue what he had started. In a way, the end becomes, really, a new beginning.
Like Leonardo’s student, a number of questions and doubts may come to mind. Am I worthy? Probably not. Have I got what it takes? On my own, definitely not! But unlike the above-mentioned case, what makes it possible in my case is not simply the inspiration coming from what the master has already done. It is, rather, the knowledge that my master is there: leafing me, guiding me, actually working through me. The work still remains His, and I become a mere instrument.
The disciples, too, had their doubts. And they were definitely not up to scratch as far as discipleship goes. In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, St Luke says that they still thought of Jesus as some worldly Messiah. In the gospel, then, St Matthew feels the need to use the term “the eleven” for the apostles. It’s a broken, incomplete, damaged group! Moreover, some of those who were there still doubted while worshiping. And yet, Jesus is not scandalized by all this. He does not expect them to become, first, perfect so that they could continue their mission. They don’t need to, because the mission is his not theirs.
There are three elements in the mission Jesus gives to the disciples and, therefore, to each one of us. First to go and make disciples. By our lives we are to encourage others to ask questions, to see Jesus’ lifestyle in our lives, to want to share in what we have been given. Then we are to “baptize” them in the name of God. Baptism here means immersion, to dunk them, saturate them, in the life of Jesus. The celebration of the sacrament will be a visible expression of this, not the other way round. Finally, Jesus tells us to remember (because he knows that we easily tend to forget!) that he will be always with us.
This divine presence in us will be celebrated next Sunday, the celebration of the Holy Spirit in our lives. In the meantime we do what the eleven did: worship him, enjoy his presence, and listen to what he has to say.