Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday 31 July 2016

Dear Friends in Christ,

The Eighth Principle of Evangelical Catholicism states that “All the baptized are sent in the Great Commission to be witnesses of Christ to others and must be equipped by the Church to teach the Gospel in word and deed. An essential dimension of true discipleship is the willingness to invite others to follow the Lord Jesus and the readiness to explain His Gospel.”

As He returned to His Father’s glory, the Lord Jesus gave these last instructions to His Church: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28.18-20) This command is known as the Great Commission, and all who fulfill this task are missionaries. But we must not think of missionaries only as priests and religious who travel to distant lands to preach the Gospel to those who have never heard of the Lord Jesus. The mission field is everywhere, and everyone baptized into the death and Resurrection of Christ is a missionary. Your home, your family, your neighborhood, your school, your workplace, your clubs and circles of friends, your political activities, your places of play and recreation: all of these are mission territory, and you are a missionary.

Compared to our Protestant brethren, Catholics have historically been considered very quiet Christians; most of us would rather live our religion than talk about it, and the idea of actually explaining our faith to others and then inviting them to follow the Lord Jesus in the Catholic Church is something that usually provokes either nervous laughter or blind terror. But this odd reticence to talk about the Gospel is not of the Church’s design or making; it is in part an unintended consequence of the division of labor in the Church, with clergy and religious on one side of the divide and the lay faithful on the other. But the Great Commission is given to all who are baptized, not just to priests and religious, and so the privilege and duty of making disciples of all nations falls to every Christian of every age without a single exception. You are a missionary.

In the first seven principles of Evangelical Catholicism, we have seen that our lives must be Christ-centered and that this is possible only when we live in the Church, sustained by her sacraments and nourished by her teaching. Now in this eighth and final principle we see that the life of grace is not given to us for our own sake, but for the sake of those to whom we are sent as witnesses. To be a disciple of Christ demands that we be willing at all times to invite others to follow the Lord Jesus and be ready to explain His Gospel. At our Baptism, the Lord Jesus called each of us by name to follow Him in the Way of the Cross. May we heed that call by living as Evangelical Catholics who bear witness to the Savior through radical conversion, deep fidelity, and joyful discipleship.

Father Newman