On the Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord, Jesus commissions the disciples to make disciples of all the nations and teach them to carry out everything he has commanded. In some senses, the Great Commission, as this Gospel passage is sometimes called, is Jesus’ commencement address.
Consider this analogy: the apostles were in the “school of ministry” headed by Jesus. For three years, they learned the Gospel, they were tested by Jesus, they had field work where they were sent out to practice what they had been taught, and their final exam was the experience of the last supper, crucifixion and resurrection. Now on Ascension Day, Jesus sends them forth with this brief address, reminding them that they have the tools for ministry and that they are never alone because he will always be with them.
During the months of May and June, many people are graduating from high school and college. They have spent many years studying, taking exams, doing field work or laboratory work. They have now completed their final exams and participated in commencement exercises. They will hear speeches and congratulatory remarks (and some will even be making them). When all is said and done, they are sent out into the world to live what they have been taught. No longer are they students of “X” high school or “Y” university, they are their own persons. They will need to stand on their own merits. While they can say I graduated from such-and-such a place, ultimately it is their own efforts and deeds on which they will be judged and evaluated.
So too in our lives as Christians: while we are known as disciples of the Lord, people will judge us on how well we have inculcated and lived out the Gospel message. While we won’t always do this perfectly, hopefully, we will be good witnesses of Jesus Christ throughout our lives. There is an old song entitled “Be true to your school” by the Beach Boys. While the lyrics are typically insipid, the sentiment is this: when someone tries to put down your school/your family/your religion/your beliefs, you need to stand up to them and take pride in your heritage. Moreover, we should never deliberately do something to bring dishonor to our reputation or our heritage. May our celebration of the Ascension help us to become closer to the Lord and be true witnesses of the Gospel.
I want to offer my congratulations to those who are graduating from high school or college as well as those who may be entering military service or the workforce. May God continue to bless all of your endeavors and keep you safe. May the wisdom you’ve gained be a source of comfort but also be an opportunity for experiencing all that life has to offer.