The Great Commission, as it has come to be known, was given to the disciples of Jesus just before His Ascension into Heaven. These parting instructions to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19) were addressed to His immediate listeners as well as “those who will believe in me through their word” (John 17:20). All these centuries later, the mission of the church remains true to the “marching orders” of Jesus by bringing His Gospel message to the four corners of the world. Discipleship and evangelization go hand in hand in making the Kingdom of God present on Earth.
The Catholic (universal) Church, bearing the eternal four marks of one, holy, catholic, and apostolic has been entrusted to bring Christ to others and to be Christ to others. The personal mission of each baptized Christian is the same, sharing in the role of Priest, Prophet, and King by virtue of the Sacrament of Baptism. As faithful Disciples of Christ, we are called to bring the good news of the Gospel to all, and in the words of St. Francis to “use words if we have to”. Our living witness provides a model for all who respond to God’s call to conversion.
Personal Conversion to Christ
There is an expression that applies to sharing our faith (or anything else) with others: “You can’t give what you don’t have.” Personal conversion to Christ is essential and ongoing in discipleship and evangelization if we are to be effective witnesses to the Gospel. The enthusiasm that flows from conversion enables every Christian to be open and welcoming to those at the very beginning of their journey of Faith.
Our personal conversion to Christ begins at Baptism and should be nurtured throughout the whole of our lives on Earth. Individual prayer, contemplation, retreats, and personal piety all contribute to our spiritual health and growth in God’s kingdom.
Discipleship and the Community of Faith
Although personal conversion to Christ is an essential first step of every disciple, it must lead to worship in an authentic Christian community. Dogma and doctrine aside, it is in the midst of “wherever two or [more] gather” where Christ is most present (cf. Matthew 18:20). The sharing, accountability and combined resources of a Christ-centered community are the natural next step on the road of discipleship.
In Catholic worship at Mass, Christ is truly present “in the word, the Eucharist and in the assembly” (Sacrosanctum Concilium 7). Our ongoing invitation and outreach are essential in our roles as disciples and evangelists as we gather as one at the table of the Lord.
Reaching Out to the World
After being formed in personal conversion and sharing our gifts in communal worship, there is a third and vital component to the practice of discipleship: reaching out to the world. In Catholic Mass, the Rite of Dismissal is of vital importance in the process of evangelization. Our mission is to bring the Christ that we have received and shared as a faith community to the world as we know it.
We travel round-trip for seven days on the road of discipleship and arrive at the point of departure on Sunday to begin a new cycle in our Christian journey toward Heaven. This upward spiral that begins and ends at Sunday Mass is given by God as a sure means of reaching Faith’s goal: Salvation.
In this series of three articles, under the heading of “Three Chords and the Truth”, we began with “Angels and Humans”, proceeded through “The Incarnation” and concluded with “Discipleship”. This brief overview of Salvation History, though impossible to convey in any amount of words alone, will hopefully spark interest and the desire to go beyond a finite number of “chords” to the infinite music of eternal salvation.