Make Them Disciples
At the very end of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus appears to the 11 disciples on a hill in Galilee. He gives them his final words: Go, then, to all peoples and make them my disciples: baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And I will be with you always, to the end of the age.” Mt. 28:19-20
This is the commission of all Christians in every age, until He comes again in glory. But it is not simply preaching that we are asked to do. As a retired teacher, father, and grandfather, I have learned that the best teaching is done by example, rather than by words, no matter how eloquent those words may be. The scriptures are full of this idea too. There are any number of parables where Jesus shows us the depth of what he is teaching us by using “every day” examples. There is, for example, the Good Samaritan. Unlike the levite and the priest, people who, by reason of faith and the law, should have willingly aided the beaten and bloodied man lying in the road before them, but avoided him instead, this foriegner, this heretic, bends down and dresses the man’s wounds, puts him on his donkey, takes him to an inn, leaves funds with the proprietor to care for the man, then returns later to see how he is doing, or to offer further help if necessary. With this one story, Jesus gives us the center of the Christian life.
We know by experience that life is difficult. We know, too, that this is so, because of the reality of sin; ours and those of others. We know that this is the reason and cause of suffering as well. Jesus came to show us the law of Love. Love is not passive. It is not something that can be preached with pretty, or even powerful words. Words are not, and can never be, enough. It is possible, in our human frailty, to speak eloquently about love in the ideal, then, in the next minute, turn around and hurt our most intimate lovers and friends with our words. No. Love is not words. Love is action. It is service in the name of Jesus. If we really want to preach the word of God to the peoples, we must begin to actively, courageously, willingly serve and suffer with them, showing them the love that God has for them with our hands, with our very lives. When they see that, they will be more than ready, willing, and able to hear the refined and refining word of God. They will have seen it in action.
Let me end this reflection with a quote from St. Francis of Assisi, “Preach often. And, if necessary, use words.” What has he commanded of us? “Love one another as I have loved you. If you have love for one another, then everyone will know that you are my disciples.” (John 13:12-13) Know, too, that as Jesus promised, he will be with us always, “to the end of the age.” Thanks be to our loving God.