Leaping to Action

4 Nov

Before ascending to His Father, Jesus instructed His apostles:

“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” (Mt. 28:18-20).

One of the many striking features of this passage is Jesus clearly did not come to establish the “First Baptist Church of Galilee,” but rather His purpose was much more ambitious in scope: He came to gather all peoples and nations into one universal (i.e., “catholic”) Church. And in this Church, everyone is called to discipleship, to follow Christ unreservedly. Truly a great fruit of Vatican II has been the renewed emphasis on the legitimate role of the laity–our call to holiness, to evangelization, and to ordering secular society in accordance with God’s will.

Another thing that I find striking about Matthew 28 is that we as disciples are called to observe all the commandments. Christ doesn’t say we should merely “learn” the commandments or observe only those commandments that work for us. After all, is He the Lord of our lives or not? How many Church teachings can we reject and still claim to be faithful disciples? Rather than choose to go our own way, we should echo the words of Simon Peter: “To whom shall we go? You have the words of everlasting life” (Jn. 6:68).

Like St. Matthew’s Gospel, the Mass ends with a commissioning, as we’re sent to bring the light of Christ to all the world. We’re not supposed to keep our faith to ourselves or under a bushel basket, but instead it is given so we in turn can give it away. Faith, without words, without actions, is dead (cf. Jas. 2:17).  As Archbishop Chaput says, it’s not an accident that the book of the Bible is called “Acts of the Apostles” and not “Pious Sentiments of the Apostles” or “Good Intentions of the Apostles.”

Our faith impels us to act for, as recent popes have stressed, the Church by her nature is missionary.

I have used the following riddle to bring home this teaching to my children: Three frogs are sitting on a log. Two of them decide to jump into the water. How many are left on the log? The answer, of course, is three, because there’s a huge difference between deciding to jump and actually jumping. Good actions come from good intentions, but are not their necessary consequence. Sometimes my children will very sincerely tell me they’ll clean their room or be attentive at Mass, but something is lost in the execution. At that point, I tell them to be “wet frogs,” and they finally begin to put their good intentions into action.

Jesus warns all His disciples, both through parables and explicit exhortations, that one doesn’t dabble in Christianity. If we’re truly with Him and His Church, we must jump off the log and bear witness to Him in word and action.

2 Responses to “Leaping to Action”

  1. JohnE November 5, 2011 at 3:37 am #

    St. Francis is often quoted as saying “preach the Gospel, and use words if necessary”. And if I’m not mistaken he did in fact use words. Evangelization is something I know I must do, but which I find awkward doing. I am not very articulate in speech, but that excuse didn’t seem to work so well for Moses. I also work at home so don’t have hardly any face to face contact with coworkers. I could use some practical pointers for broaching the subject with others. My wife is not baptized but she reminds me at restaurants to lead our family in prayer before the meal, which I also do with our non-Catholic friends and her non-religious family. Unfortunately, it rarely leads to anything further, and that’s about the extent of evangelization outside of family and bible study with other Catholics.

  2. Nicole November 7, 2011 at 12:39 am #

    That’s a very amusing riddle! I’ll have to remember that 🙂

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