The Gospel of Matthew ends in a striking manner. The last recorded instruction that Jesus gives to his disciples is found in Mt 28:18-20. He says, “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 lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” This command is often referred to as the Great Commission, and it is worthy of special attention. It is possible that these were the last words Jesus spoke before ascending to his Father in heaven. At very least, they are the last words recorded by Matthew, which would imply that he wanted them ringing in our ears. It is not difficult to see why this would be the case. The Great Commission revealed to the disciples what the next step would be when their Lord no longer walked among them. With these words, the resurrected Christ gives the Church her task—her mission. As members of that Church, we must be striving at all times to baptize, teach, and make disciples of all nations. Our job as “the light of the world” (Mt 5:14) is to enter the darkness and let our light “shine before men” (Mt 5:16). The problem is that we are not doing a good job.
Since we get to God through the humanity of Christ, the preacher’s/evangelist’s principal task is to introduce people to Jesus Christ in his humanity. This is accomplished by recounting, explaining, and directing people toward what the Tradition holds about the words and deeds of Jesus in history. In short, good preaching is Christocentric, but contemporary Catholic preaching in the United States is not. If we want to ignite and restore the faith of America’s lost sheep, then he must increase, and we must decrease (see Jn 3:30).
“Desiring to do good to men, as Man He comes, taking to Himself a body like the rest; and through His actions done in that body, as it were on their own level, He teaches those who would not learn by other means to know Himself, the Word of God, and through Him the Father.”
St. Athanasius, De Incarnatione.
This is an excerpt from St. John Paul II’s encyclical Evangelium vitae. Text edited by Ambrose Bean. Audio edited by Stephen Bean.