“And behold, I am with you always…” (Matthew 28:20)
What a comforting promise the Lord gives us at the end of today’s gospel. This week, many of you came and participated in our 40 Hour Devotion of Adoration to the Blessed Sacrament. Our Lord was present in our chapel and was never alone. The amount of people that came, especially in the overnight hours, was incredible. On Friday night, when I gave Benediction and reposed the Lord, I told everyone present that now that we had concluded the 40 Hour Devotion and enjoyed his presence among us, we had to take his presence into the world. This is, in part, what we celebrate today with the Solemnity of the Ascension. Cardinal Dolan tweeted this week, that “today we are not celebrating Jesus leaving us—what we are celebrating is that He remains with us always!” Despite leaving the sight of the disciples, he promises his presence. The problem for us is that we often forget that he walks with us in our journey.
So many of us have walked into this church today with problems and stress and anxieties. We often complain that God has abandoned us. He’s not there. He has forgotten us. But right there at the very end of the Gospel of Matthew is a promise: “I am with you always.” God, by his very nature, cannot lie. He assures us of his presence, and this should be of tremendous comfort to us. Therefore, as I have invited you to do before, cast off your problems and place them in the hands of our Lord. Today he becomes our Great Mediator. He will take on your burdens. He will walk with you in your troubles. He is with us especially in this Eucharist. We need his presence because we cannot journey through this life alone. During my last Mass today, I asked the people if we could take on our problems on our own, and a little girl sitting to my left vigorously shook her head NO! If a little girl can figure out how much we need God’s presence in our life, why can’t we? Probably because we like to be independent. We like to do things on our own. Except that life has taught me all too well that whenever I set off on my own, I end up falling flat on my face. But there is Jesus dusting me off, picking me up, and pointing me in the right direction. Give your troubles to Jesus this day. Do not walk out of here burdened. Christ makes us free, and his presence gives us overwhelming peace as we all discovered during those 40 hours.
And when we carry no burden, we can act on that final command that Jesus gave his disciples to go to all nations to spread the Good News. Essentially it’s to do what I told those gathered late Friday night: once we surrender to our Lord, we can start to freely and joyfully share his presence with the world. He is with us always until the end.