“All power is given to me in heaven and in earth. Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.” – The Messiah, The Son of the Living God (Mt26:18-19).
This Gospel passage contains the Great Christian Mandate (mandate from the Latin mandare, which means to send). The question this article seeks to answer is: “To what extent are we fulfilling the Great Mandate as outlined in Matthew 26:18-19?”.
As Catholics we believe that Jesus of Nazareth, son of Mary, foster child of Joseph of the Tribe of David, is God. He is both God and man. Fundamentally a mystery, something hidden from our capacity to understand. That Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah, the Anointed Saviour of the world.
As Catholics we also hold that “[The Catholic Church] has always maintained [Sacred Scripture], and continues to do so, together with Sacred Tradition, as the supreme rule of faith, since, as inspired by God and committed once and for all to writing, they impart the word of God Himself without change, and make the voice of the Holy Spirit resound in the words of the prophets and Apostles.” Dei Verbum 6:21
“[T]he supreme rule of faith” “[T]he word of God Himself without change”, these are powerful words to bear in mind.
To adequately diagnose the situation of today with regards to the Great Mandate, and to speculate the future, we need to look to the past, as any good scientist would. It is no use to hold the position that the Second Vatican Council represents the resetting of the Christian clock to year zero. There is approximately 1,980 years since the death and resurrection of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. We must not negate that.
Very briefly and in a general fashion I will quickly outline the major points in the history of the Church where there have been great expansion.
- Apostolic-Post Apostolic period (which ran up to Anno Domini 312)
- From 312 to 1054 Christianity enjoyed liberty from active State persecution on the European Continent, and Christianity exploded over the world. Towards the end, it would be reasonably fair to say, that evangelical efforts were beginning to slow.
- The Counter Reformation period (which ran from 1558 to 1788) is certainly another “Spring” when it came to evangelisation and with the suppression of the Society of Jesus it would be fair to say evangelical efforts began to decline.
- The late 19th and early part of the 20th Century saw a resurgence, with what could be called the Catholic Enlightenment, marked by many impressive figures from Leo XIII, Pius X, Newman, and many other great Catholic Saints, and the Catholic intellectuals such as G K Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc and I would include Tolkien as the last of that breed.
But what of today?
Some could say that hands are bound by the Decree on Ecumenism, that feet are bound by the Decree on Religious Liberty, and that tongues are held in fear and confusion.
Others would clamour that it is all the fault of the changes and abuses made to the Mass.
Still others would say that this is the great spring, that now is the time, the harvest is rich, the fields are abundant, the labourers are few. That Dignitatis Humanae and Unitatis Reintegratio were a few of the vessels of flinging the doors of the Church open to receive the hungering souls of today.
Whatever position we take, something smells fishy.
Churches, today, are often closed. Was that the case sixty years ago? If not, then why not?
People who attend Church regularly nowadays, are they likely to be evangelising more than their counterparts were sixty years ago? Are they likely to know their catechism, in order to extol the Truths of our Faith, better than before?
Sixty years ago the Catholic Evidence Guild was offering Mass in the high streets and then bearing witness from soapboxes, where is that evangelical effort today?
Though Christ was God, He never asked us to adore Him. But He did ask us to “teach […] all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you”.
It is only right and due to adore Christ God in the Blessed Sacrament, and truly commendable and indeed to be encouraged. But, perhaps, not at the expense of ignoring Christ’s words, which would be tantamount to ignoring our neighbour, and not caring about their Eternal destiny.
The issue that I wish to raise to peoples pondering is, since when did self become the most important thing in the spiritual life? Was not Christ’s entire life not an out-pouring of self to others? Was not His entire teaching aimed at the good of the other? So since when has self become more important than neighbour?
Are we more selfish today, than sixty years ago? If so, why?
We have a message to carry.
“Christ has no body now on earth but yours,
no hands but yours,
no feet but yours,
Yours are the eyes through which to look out
Christ’s compassion to the world
Yours are the feet with which he is to go about
Yours are the hands with which he is to bless men now.”
― Teresa of Ávila