That Gospel from Matthew is the last paragraph, in the last chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. The entire Gospel of Matthew has been aiming toward this paragraph, the commissioning of the Apostles and the sending of the Church.
Were all the disciples on board? What we hear is this,
The eleven disciples went to Galilee,
to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them.
When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted.
They doubted. We don’t pay much attention to this phrase about doubting. It will take decades and even generations to reflect upon what happened. They doubted. Doubting cannot be a sin, because Jesus appears to ignore their doubts. Out of obedience they do what he says,
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.
Doubts are normal in the face of what you don’t understand. However, we know what followed.
They all doubted. The mystery was too great to absorb all at once. Only Judas rebelled. The disciples were Apostles because they were sent. They were obedient, trusting that Jesus would be with them always, as He promised. They accepted what he told them on faith, not on understanding. We may never understand the things that we believe. But we can be obedient. The Ascension of Jesus to the Father is one of these mysteries we simply have to believe in Faith.
The Ascension of Jesus Christ is the final step of his Exaltation. The Exaltation of Jesus took place in three stages: Resurrection, Ascension and conferral of the Holy Spirit (Pentecost). According to Biblical and Church tradition this occurred over 50 days, ending with Pentecost, when Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to the Apostles and the Church.
A new age is begun. Once Jesus is re-united with his Father. After the Ascension, the age of the Church begins. With the aid of the Holy Spirit, the Church spread the Gospel all over the world. Jesus remains with His Church in the Sacraments. Never has the world seen such a change in influence and power. Nothing in the world can compare with what happened in those 50 days and soon after. The Church exploded over the entire world, to every land and people. The age of the Church is our current age. We are still living that mystery.
This could not have happened until after Jesus’ Ascension to the Father. He came from the Father, and he returned to the Father after his Resurrection, body and soul. The Ascension is an important step in His Exaltation. Jesus is God. And, for us He is the Way we must follow. If we keep His Commandments and love one another, we will also experience the Resurrection of the Body and Soul and be re-united with Him, and the Spirit and with the Father.
The Exaltation of Jesus also presents to us a very real challenge. There is an enmity between the world and Heaven. The world wants to have ultimate power over everything, but, with the Ascension, the Reign of God is simply beyond the reach of the world. The world cannot accept this, and so it attempts to denigrate the Church, to dominate and control. Just look what is happening with the current administrations attempts to define what is and is not a Church for the purposes of mandating abortion and birth control funding. This initiative is not new. We have seen things like this for two thousand years. The world killed Jesus and persecuted his Apostles and followers. However, Jesus’ promise is that “the gates of Hell will not prevail” against His Church. For two thousand years we have witnesses to the truth of Jesus’ promise. We are witnesses today of the truth of the Ascension and Pentecost. We will ascend with Him for eternity if we believe He is the Son of God and keep His commandments.