How Our Desires For Perfection Keep Us From Discovering True Love (Ascension Gospel Reflection)
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One of the best ways to enrich your experience at Sunday Mass is to pray the Mass Readings personally and to meditate on a Gospel reflection.
A great way of doing this is using the technique of Lectio Divina, a powerful method which we explain here. The following is the Sunday Gospel reading with a reflection that is especially aimed at youth.
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We hope that it serves you in your personal prayer and that it serves as a resource that you can share with your apostolate.
The Gospel of the Ascension of the Lord (Matthew 28: 16-20)
The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them. When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted. Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
The Gospel of the Lord
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“If the bee devours the nectar, it can’t take it to any other flowers.” ~ De Mello
Life continuously teaches us that another person can never become our property.
Far too often, relationships burn out and die because we cling to the other person greedily. But any attempt to possess the other always end in destruction, as with King Midas who could never eat again because everything he touched turned to gold.
We only truly live our relationships when we accept that the other is a gift in my life and not my property. The other person never belongs to me.
It’s a tiring dynamic because it forces us out of our delusions of omnipotence and the fantasy we enjoyed as children when we could transform our reality with our imagination.
Precisely because it’s so difficult, Jesus tries to educate his disciples in this freedom: to ascend means to leave without abandoning or forgetting.
Jesus requires that his disciples have hearts that are free so that they may experience what it means to have mature relationships. Jesus asks Mary Magdalene not to detain him, that is, not to get hung up on the idea of a relationship still based on the desire to possess the other.
Jesus is the gift par excellence: He who comes from the Father and returns to him. This is the dynamic of every gift that marks our lives: we continually receive the gift of life with all of its beauty, with the many people in it, with the emotions, with all the different moments that are given to us, one after another.
We have been created to be participants in – givers and receivers of – this continuous gift. We are immersed in a love that can have no owners.
We know well from our experience that relationships fizzle out and die when we seek perfection.
Every time we want to idealize a relationship, it is the prelude to a crisis.
Love is only possible in imperfection. Only absence allows creation. Perfection becomes stagnant: our bodies are alive because they are moved by continuous needs, that is, the absence of something. Our bodies only reach equilibrium when we die.
The Gospel too closes with imperfection which becomes a thrust towards love. In the final chapter of the Gospel, we find an imperfect group of Apostles, as indicated by the number eleven! Like a table that is off by a little, they were left rickety and slanted.
From the beginning, there were twelve, which is a very meaningful number for Israel. It was the achievement of a new perfection, the prelude to glory. And yet, after the death of the Messiah, Israel discovers its imperfection.
The disciples too discover their imperfection: they are men capable of betrayal, weak and imperfect men. And yet Jesus has given them – this imperfect group – the mission of announcing the fullness of love, Trinitarian love, the love that is not exhausted in the adolescent game between you and me, I and You, but that knows how to break out of such an “intimistic” closure and give itself continually to others.
In this imperfection, Matthew finishes his Gospel, without waiting till he has the final version.
These verses are the key to understanding the entire Gospel of Matthew: what happens after will not matter, it does not matter that we are still imperfect, it doesn’t matter whether or not we are able to announce the Gospel like our Teacher did, for I am with you always!
This is the fulfillment of the promise that Matthew had started his Gospel with: Emmanuel, God is with us. This was the name of Jesus. And He is the promise.
At the end of his Gospel, Matthew goes back to the start. The promise has been fulfilled forever. At the beginning and the end of his Gospel Matthew tells us that Jesus is the one that is with us, always! In between, we have all the events of our lives – the strange, the beautiful, the difficult. Every instant of our lives is guarded within this great inclusion. At the beginning and the end of our lives we have this promise: God is with us every day, forever!
Questions for Personal Meditation:
- Are you able to accept the imperfections of others in the important relationships of your life?
- Do you live your life as a gift that you are constantly receiving or do you try to keep what you have?