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The Exponential Power of Vocation (or, An Exegesis on Matthew 28)

What follows is a section of exegesis taken from a book that I am writing on Vocation Formation & Discernment. It discusses the nature of the Church’s vocation in light of the Ascension. Its brief enough to act as a momentary diversion.

Matthew 28:18-20: And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations,baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

 

Notice three things:
1. This verse represents a vocation, a calling, a commissioning by Our Lord. It is an imperative AND a gift, an order and a grace.

2. Jesus associates all the power that He has with the communion of the Trinity. This is the only time in Matthew’s gospel that Christ explicitly mentions His place in the Threefold Godhead. It’s not because he was shy about. Its because He was saving the best for last. It’s because the Trinity’s own communication is the most powerful thing he can offer to his disciples! Christ is saying, “All power has been given to me. And from among all those powers, the one that is most important, the one that I give to you, is the power of Gods own communio personarum” Talk about setting priorities.

3. This power is meant for all “the nations,” a phrase that was the Jewish code word for Jews and Gentiles alike. In other words, this gift of the Trinity’s own unity, this love and prayer power that the disciples are given is meant to bring the Jews together with all those Gentile nations that had always given them so much trouble (the Egyptians, Babylonians, Philistines, Greeks, Romans, etc.) so that everybody in the world can have the opportunity to worship the one true God. That’s a mighty tall order and Jesus doesn’t give the disciples a clue as to how they’re going to get that power out there! After all, after finishing these words, He quite literally flies away.

If Adam awoke in the garden of Eden with his vocation lying right next to him, the Church awakes at the ascension to an even more stupendous vocation flying off into the sky. The surprise and shock of all this is caught up in the fact that our vocation is NOT about our selves and what we have to do. It isn’t even concerned just with the other! When Adam knew Eve, they begot Cain and Abel, who end up apart. When Jesus was fully known by his disciples, He left them standing on a mountaintop with the challenge of bringing two brothers together. Our communio is never simply between two parties because love can never be limited. It grows exponentially. Just as the communio of God overflows into creation, so also the communio of husband an wife overflows into their children, just as the love of Father and Son spirated another Divine person, the Holy Spirit, so also does our prayer and discernment necessarily extended beyond whatever limitations are imposed on it. We know not how this works, but we rest certain that it does work in this way because the very foundation of our Christianity, the sacrament and communio of baptism, overflows into the nations. And wherever unexplained exponential growth is involved, there is mystery. The reason why God doesn’t bother trying to get the details of our vocation into our heads is because vocation is never about trying to fit everything into yourself. It’s about abundance and rush and overflow and generosity. When God doesn’t respond when we ask Him to tell us directly about our vocations, it’s not because He doesn’t like telling us things. It’s not even because He doesn’t like telling us things directly. It’s because our vocation is not about us. His Eternal silence on this matter is the loudest reminder that vocation is about gift, that callings are about communio. His message is that, at the heart of the matter and at the center of God, is the strange and terrible mystery of the Other. And we must never objectify the Other by trying to fit him into our own pre-conceived notions about what vocation should be. If the the vocation given at the Ascension indicates anything, its that the sky’s the limit.

About Daniel Lacourrege

Daniel Lacourrege is a 20-something year old theologian living in the Archdiocese of New Orleans. It is the best place in the world to be a 20-something. It is the third best place in the world to be a Catholic (Rome & Jerusalem claiming first & second).
His life has become one adventure right after another. Most of them start in a classroom or library, but very few of them finish there. He likes most things, but usually must be in the mood for them. The only thing he is never in the mood for is traffic.
If you feel so moved, you may email him at lacourrege4@archbishopshaw.us.

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