Saint Joseph de Anchieta – Commentary on the day’s Scripture readings
Reflection on Zeph 3:9-10,14-18; Ps 85; Matt 28:16-20
The Gospel reading comes from the end of Matthew’s gospel. The eleven apostles have returned to their native Galilee after the death and resurrection of Jesus. They gather at a mountain where Jesus told them to go. He appears there in front of them but their feelings are ambivalent. On the one hand, they bow down in worship before him and yet, at the same time, they have doubts as to whether it is really he. We see this ambivalence all the time during the post-Resurrection stories. They know it is their Jesus and yet, he looks different. It is something they have to learn. The post-Resurrection Jesus can appear in many forms, in fact, he has the face of everyEveryman. He is to be loved and served in all our brothers and sisters. “As often as you do it to even the least of my brothers and sisters, you do it to Me.”
Jesus then gives them their final instructions before he leaves them to be with his Father. He tells them that all God’s power has been given to him and, because of this, the instructions he gives them have the endorsement of God himself.
They are told to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”. In other words, they are to bring the message of the Gospel to all peoples, without any exceptions. It does not mean, of course, that every person in every community will be converted but the message is for everyone. And we can say that the Church has followed that mandate from the beginning until now.
And how are they to “make disciples”? By teaching people to follow all that Jesus has commanded his disciples. And basically, what he has commanded them above all is to love one another with the same degree of love with which Jesus loved them, to be always ready to serve their brothers and sisters, that is, to attend to their needs, and to form a fellowship of love and unity for “by this will all know that you are my followers, that you have love one for another”.
Joseph Anchieta spent his whole missionary life living out these instructions and doing so with extraordinary success. We have much to learn from him.
The First Reading is from the prophet Zephaniah. It is reminiscent of the missionary zeal of Joseph Anchieta who reached deep into Brazilian territory to bring the message of the Gospel to the native peoples. And they responded wonderfully. As the reading says, “From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia and as afar as the recesses of the North, they shall bring me offerings.” The second part of the reading reminds us of the protection that God gave Anchieta and his companions in the many dangers they endured from both the European and the native peoples.
“The Lord has removed the judgement against you, he has turned away your enemies. The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst, a mighty saviour… I will remove disaster from among you… At that time I will deal with all who oppress you… I will give them praise and renown in all the earth, when I bring about their restoration.” Words which apply very well to the protection that the Lord gave Anchieta in his missionary work and also to the native peoples for whose welfare he gave his whole life.