Catholics and The Great Commission…
The Apostles are given the task to share the Gospel with the world, and so are we:
He said to them, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned. These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages. They will pick up serpents (with their hands), and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” -Mark 16:15-18, NAB
Jesus had just appeared to the Apostles for the first time since His Resurrection, and in that moment, He commanded them to “go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15).” This command, known as the Great Commission, set forth the missionary work of the Church.
It did not take long for the Apostles to follow His instructions. The Acts of the Apostles tells the tales of their early work. History also tells us that the Apostles went far and wide preaching the Gospel, expanding the Church far from its roots in Israel.
The Great Commission was not a command that He gave only to the Apostles – but to the whole Church. That command, and its authority, is passed down to our bishops (the successors of the Apostles), priests, deacons, and even us. Yes, you and I are called, just as the Apostles were, to spread the Gospel to the world.
Throughout the world, Catholic missionaries continue to spread the Gospel to this day. In the farthest reaches of the world, including Asia and Africa, the Lord’s work is done by those willing to share the Good News. Yet we don’t have to be a missionary in a far off country to share the love of Christ; it can happen right in our own community.
In the Western culture, many Catholics fail to answer the call of the Great Commission. Instead, the Catholic faith is seen as something passed down from one generation to the next. While I feel our missionary work begins in our own home, it must go far beyond that. The Christian faith did not grow to its large numbers simply by passing it on to our own children. It was the missionary work of the early Church that helped Christianity to spread this far.
At my parish, the youth go on a yearly missions trip (usually to a city recovering from one disaster or another). I think this is fantastic, but have we given them the tools necessary to evangelize right in their own community – at school, at work, and in their social lives? Often times, our greatest evangelistic work is done by those we interact with on a daily basis.
Catholic numbers in the United States and other Western countries are steadily decreasing (despite the large numbers of Catholic immigrants coming into the country). What are we doing wrong? People will give a variety of reasons, including recent scandals, the liberal media, advancements in science, and other excuses, but the truth is that we are failing to evangelize in our communities. The few cannot do the work of the many if we want the Church to thrive.
Have you answered the call to the Great Commission? What are you doing in your life to spread the Good News? It doesn’t matter if you save the soul in a far off land or right next door. A soul is a soul, and we all need Christ in our lives. It’s time to answer the call. As Jesus commanded us, “go into the world and proclaim the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15).”