Matthew begins his Gospel by recalling that Jesus, whose story he is about to narrate, is “Emmanuel” (Mt 1:23), which means “God is with us.” Matthew then concludes his Gospel by repeating these words of Jesus, his promise to remain with us always, even after he has gone back to heaven. He will be “God is with us” until the end of the age.
Jesus addressed these words to his disciples after entrusting them with the task of bringing his message to the whole world. He was well aware that he was sending them “like sheep in the midst of wolves” and that they would meet with adversity and persecutions (see Mt 10:16-22). This is why he didn’t want to leave them alone in their mission. And so at the very moment when he was leaving, he promised to stay! They’ll no longer be able to see him with their eyes, they won’t be able to hear his voice, they won’t be able to touch him, but he will be present in their midst, as he was before — even more than before. Up until then, his presence was localized in one precise place, in Capernaum, or on the lake, or in the mountains, or in Jerusalem. Instead, from then on, he will be wherever his disciples are.
Jesus was also thinking of all of us living out day after day what can sometimes be a complex lifestyle. Because he was incarnate Love, he might have thought: I would like to be with them always, to share their daily worries, to give them advice; I would like to walk down the streets with them, enter their homes, enliven their joy with my presence.
This is why he wanted to remain with us and make us feel his closeness, his strength, his love.
Luke’s Gospel relates that after having seen him ascend to heaven, the disciples “returned to Jerusalem with great joy” (Lk 24:52). How could that be? It was because they were experiencing the reality of those words of his.
We too will be full of joy if we truly believe in Jesus’ promise:
“And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Mt 28:20).
These words, the last words that Jesus addressed to his disciples, mark the end of his earthly life and, at the same time, the beginning of the life of the Church. Jesus is present in the Church in many ways: in the Eucharist, in his Word, in his ministers (bishops, priests), in the poor, in the little ones, in the marginalized … in every neighbor.
We like to underline one particular presence of Jesus, one that he himself pointed out to us: “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (Mt 18:20). He would like to be present everywhere in this way.
If we live what Jesus commands, especially his New Commandment, we can experience this presence of his even outside of our place of worship, in the midst of a crowd, wherever this presence of his is kept alive, everywhere.
What is asked of us is mutual love, made up of service and understanding, of sharing in the sufferings, anxieties and joys of our brothers and sisters — a love that endures everything, forgives everything, a love which is typical of Christianity.
Let us live in this way so that everyone may be given the opportunity to meet with him already on this earth.
Each month a Scripture passage is offered as a guide and inspiration for daily living. This commentary, translated into 96 different languages and dialects, reaches several million people worldwide through print, radio, television and the Internet. Ever since the Focolare’s beginnings, founder Chiara Lubich (1920–2008) wrote her commentaries each month. This one, addressed to a primarily Christian audience, was originally published in May 2002.
This monthly leaflet is a supplement to Living City, the Focolare magazine (livingcitymagazine.com). People’s life experiences as they put the monthly sentence into practice can be read in Living City or in books published by New City Press (newcitypress.com).
For information and to subscribe to this leaflet or to the magazine, write to: Living City, 202 Comforter Blvd, Hyde Park, New York 12538; tel: 845-229-0496; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit focolare.org (international); focolare.us (U.S.). © 2014 by Living City of the Focolare Movement, Inc.
Read more on this topic:
- Foresi, Fr. Pasquale. “Jesus in the midst,” New Humanity Review, 14 (2009).
- Lubich, Chiara. “The Risen Lord in Our Midst,” The Art of Loving. New City Press, Hyde Park, 2010, p. 119.
- Povilus, Judith. United in His Name: Jesus in the Midst in the experience and thought of Chiara Lubich, New City Press, Hyde Park, 1992.
“If two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” (Mt 18:19–20)