This reading from the Gospel of Matthew should be a special comfort to us today when it feels like danger is everywhere and every news story makes us more afraid.
The disciples had known Jesus, had accompanied him for three years, had experienced his post-Resurrection presence, but they still doubted. Danger was everywhere, especially during the last days of Jesus’ life, and they had no idea how things would turn out. Today we know “the rest of the story,” but when the media brings stories of war and terrorist threat into our homes in real time, we forget — and we doubt. Maybe that’s why Jesus made it a point to reassure his disciples that he would be with them “always.”
In his book, “No Man Is An Island,” Thomas Merton wrote that it is “[o]nly when we see ourselves … as members of a race which is intended to be one organism and ‘one body,’” that we “will … begin to understand the positive importance not only of the successes but of the failures and accidents in our lives.”
Bookstore shelves overflow with titles connecting faith with success in business, but what about those people who are not successful? Newspaper headlines shout the reality of wars and rumors of war; are the “failures” and “accidents” of war proof of the absence of God? “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” No time limits; no exclusionary clauses.
Our job as baptized Christians is to extend this assurance to everyone, regardless of ethnicity or economic status. Where and how we do this will be different for each one of us, but, if we trust, rather than doubt, God will use not only our “successes,” but also our “failures” and “accidents.” Jesus promised to be with his disciples “always.” Do we claim Jesus’ presence as members of his body? Do we believe that Jesus remains with us even when it feels like he is far away? Do we live our lives — our “failures” as well as our “successes” — in ways that evidence our belief to others? Do we teach God’s commandment of love, even when we doubt?
Van Benthem is a longtime pastoral minister in the Diocese of Green Bay.