Matthew, the evangelist, begins his Gospel by recalling that Jesus, whose story he is about to narrate, is Emmanuel, which means God is with us, and he concludes it 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 addresses these words to the disciples after entrusting them with the task of bringing his message to the whole world. He was well aware of the fact that he was sending them like sheep in the midst of wolves and that they would meet with adversity and persecutions. This is why he doesn’t want to leave them alone in their mission. And so in the very moment in which he is leaving, he promises 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; indeed, more than before. Up until then, his presence was localized in one precise place, in Capernaum, on the lake, in the mountains, or in Jerusalem. Instead, from now 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 is 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 tells that after having seen him ascend to heaven, the disciples “returned to Jerusalem with great joy”. How could it be? They had experienced the reality of those words of his.
We too will be full of joy if we truly believe in Jesus’ promise:
«And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age»
These words, the last words that Jesus addresses to the disciples, mark the end of his earthly life and, at the same time, the beginning of the life of the Church in which he is present 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, that which he himself indicated to us in the Gospel of Matthew: “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” He would like to be present everywhere in this way.
If we live what he commands, especially his new commandment, we can experience this presence of his even outside of church, 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 which endures everything, which forgives everything, 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.