The Great Commission Matthew 28:16-20

Matthew 28:16-20

The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them. When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted. Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power 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, until the end of the age.”

There is something hidden in this passage that the modern day reader doesn’t grasp at first glance, or perhaps even at second or third glances. Of course, there is the obvious mission given from Jesus to the disciples to go out and make more disciples, but that is right there in the text. No, this hidden message requires the reader to place this passage within the entire context of the Gospel.

The passage is comprised of the final five verses of the Gospel of Matthew. After it, there is nothing more written by this Gospel author. Before it, though, is where the hidden message is revealed: Before this passage, Jesus is dead. This isn’t a figurative death, no. Before this passage, the disciples watched as their leader was arrested, scourged, mocked, forced to carry his own cross to his place of death, crucified, and lifted up for the all the world to see his final breath. Finally, his dead body was placed in a tomb and a huge stone was placed in front of the entrance so no one could get in or out.

We can try to imagine what was going through the minds and hearts of the disciples when they saw their King for the first time after his resurrection, but one thing is certain: they finally understood everything. They witnessed their King give everything for their sake, and now he was asking them to go and tell people about it. The hidden message from Jesus is this: Your King has given everything for your sake; now you must give everything for the sake of his Kingdom. This radical new way of life they were to proclaim to the nations was sure to lead to further persecution, mockery, beatings, and martyrdom. They were to imitate Jesus in giving everything they had so that more people might come to know the Good News.

The hidden message in this passage wasn’t meant only for those eleven disciples. It was meant for all disciples of Jesus Christ, even those of us who live in the world 2000 years later. We, too, are meant to give everything for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. We, too, are meant to pour ourselves out just as Jesus poured himself out on the cross. St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ” (1 Cor 11:1). St. Paul was a martyr for Jesus Christ. He gave everything for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. Perhaps we won’t be killed for our faith, but our lives ought to be filled with little “deaths” sprinkled throughout the day. Above all, it means keeping a mentality which seeks to give myself to others rather than to take things for myself, and to do this as a way to love as Jesus loved. Many probably know what this looks like – staying up late with the sick child, patiently working through miscommunications with the spouse, waking up earlier so everyone in the house has time to get themselves for school, work, etc., acknowledging a wrong and seeking forgiveness when pride would rather stick to stubbornness, missing the big game on TV for the sake of spending time with friends or going to Mass, the list can go on and on.

“After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray.”

Giving everything is hard and tiring. It can be easy to throw in the proverbial towel and give up on the fight. After all, a person can only give so much. Well, fortunately for us, Jesus also gives us a great blueprint for sustaining a life of self-sacrifice: check out the first part of Matthew 14:23 (the quote above). Jesus knew that prayer would help sustain his life of self-sacrifice. St. Paul knew the same thing. Countless other saints – all of the saints, in fact – knew the same thing and would often spend significant amounts of time in prayer. “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.” St. John Paul II had a great line:

“If the path becomes difficult at times and you are overcome by fatigue, rest in the shade of prayer.”

Make disciples. Give everything. Imitate the saints. Rest in the shade of prayer.

What is Simplicity?

FocusOnJesus-470x260

I’ve written in previous posts about simplicity and how it can assist us in remembering our mission to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ, but I didn’t really offer a definition of simplicity. It’s a tough word to define, especially when seeking to satisfy the masses. I’ve had several conversations with the EvangelicalDisciple concerning the topic and we have yet to nail down a good definition of it. Well, I have good news for everyone: I think I have found a good definition!

St. Francis de Sales (whom I quoted last week) offers this:

Well, simplicity is nothing else than an act of pure and simple charity, having only one end, which is to acquire the love of God; and our soul is simple when we have no other aim in all that we do or desire.

To break open his definition, he brings into the discussion the example of Martha and Mary as they welcomed the Lord into their home. Mary was the one who understood simplicity, for she looked straight to God, without ever allowing any self-interest to creep into her motives for sitting at the feet of Jesus. Martha, meanwhile, was so focused on herself that she became anxious and weighed down by her work. Her life had become so self-interested that she lost all freedom to rest with Jesus.

rest

Consider the ramifications of what life might look like for one devoted to living a life solely founded on the virtue of simplicity: no more little indulgences after consuming enough food and drink, no more excessive TV watching, spending, hoarding… no more excess at all. What else might it entail? Well, resting on Sundays, spending more time in the peace and quiet of prayer, striving for holiness and inviting others to do the same, encountering great joy in detachment from self, realizing you don’t have to defeat Satan because Jesus already did it, calmness of spirit and freedom from anxiety. The pros outweigh the cons.

If you’re interested in living a life of true simplicity, ask yourself:

Do I want serve this person because I want to look good in the eyes of others, or because I want to show him/her God’s love?

Do I want to buy this car because it looks a certain way, or because it will help me glorify God?

Do I want to grow a good garden so I can show it off to my friends, or because a good garden will nourish me and remind me to thank God for my health, and beautiful flowers will remind me of all that God created?

Do I exercise only because it makes me look better to other people, or because I can serve God better with a healthy body?

Do I want to fast today because my friends might notice and think I’m a holy person, or because it will remind me of my soul’s hunger for God’s grace?

Am I focused on myself, or on God and his glory?

Do I think only of myself and how I look in the eyes of others, or do I think only of God and his love for his people?

Do I pray only because it makes me feel good, or because God deserves my worship, reverence, and love? Do I stop praying when the good feelings vanish, or do I persevere even through the times when I can’t feel God’s presence?

Ask yourself these questions – and similar questions about things that better relate to your life – frequently. Live a reflected life so you don’t lose sight of the ultimate goal, which is the glory of God and the salvation of souls. Be simple.

“…you are anxious about many things.” [SERMON]

A sermon from this morning about St. Martha in this passage (Luke 10:38-42):

Jesus entered a village
where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.
She had a sister named Mary
who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.
Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said,
“Lord, do you not care
that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving?
Tell her to help me.”
The Lord said to her in reply,
“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.
There is need of only one thing.
Mary has chosen the better part
and it will not be taken from her.”

Finish the Phrase: If You Can’t Say Something Nice… – The Spiritual Combat, 24.

The Spiritual Combat

Posted by: EvangelicalDisciple

The Spiritual Combat, Chapter 24: Of the Way to Rule the Tongue (text at bottom)

…Then don’t say anything at all.

Our teacher is telling us to be quiet.  The counsel flies in the face of our tendencies today, but let’s hear him out.  If the goal is discourse with God and holiness, let’s see which serves these goals.
Talking or Praying: Talking to another may lead me to my goal, or it may lead me away from my goal.  Praying leads me to my goal.
Talking: It may lead to gossip, slander, immorality, idleness, laziness, avoidance of actual duty, self-indulgence, self-praise, prideful speech, foulness, speaking in vain against God.  If all of that is avoided, talking is good.
Praying and recollected meditation: it leads to discourse with God and holiness.

Our teacher is not against talking, he is against over-talking or mis-talking.  Or, to put it another way: he is for the use of the mouth as God has given it to be used.

Overuse of anything can destroy it (listen to a song over and over and you will become disgusted with it).  Misuse of anything can destroy it (put a plastic container in the oven at 400 for a little while and you will see).  When we overuse or misuse our mouths, we may destroy our interior life with God. 

The mouth is for communication; to let what is in the heart or mind out to be shared with another.  If we use our mouths purely, we will deepen communion with others.

But even that is not enough for our teacher.  He wants our minds and hearts to be always lifted to God.  And so it is not enough that my mouth be used purely.  It actually needs to be closed sometimes, even oftentimes, so that the mind and heart can be lifted to God.  So he pushes us forward into the practice of silence.  And when we do speak, let us speak of the glory of God!

garden4

PRACTICAL IDEAS – plan them and keep them:
one hour a day in blocked off silence. (also known as holy hour)
one morning a week in blocked off silence.
one day a month in blocked off silence. (also known as desert day)
one week a year in blocked off silence. (also known as retreat)

– – – – –

Chapter 24 text:

It is very necessary that the tongue be well bridled and regulated because we are all much inclined to let it run on upon those things which are most pleasing to the senses.

Much speaking springs ordinarily from pride. We persuade ourselves that we know a great deal; we take delight in our own conceits, and endeavor by needless repetitions to impress them on the minds of others, that we may exercise a mastery over them, as though they needed instruction from us.

It is not possible to express in few words the many evils which arise from overmuch speaking.

Talkativeness is the mother of sloth, the sign of ignorance and folly, the door of slander the minister of falsehood, the destroyer of fervent devotion. A multitude of words adds strength to evil passions, by which again the tongue is the more easily led on to indiscreet talking.

Do not indulge in long conversations with those who are unwilling to hear you lest you weary them; nor with those who love to listen to you, lest you exceed the bounds of modesty.

Avoid loud and positive speaking, which is not only odious in itself, but is also a sign of presumption and vanity.

Never speak of thyself or thy doings, nor of thy kindred, except in case of absolute necessity, and then with all possible brevity and reserve. If others seem to speak overmuch of themselves, try to put a favorable construction upon their conduct; but do not imitate it, even though their words seem to tend to self-humiliation and self-accusation.

Speak as little as may be of your neighbor, or of anything concerning him, unless an occasion offers to say something in his praise.

Speak willingly of God, and especially of His love and goodness; but with fear and caution, lest even here you fall into error: rather take pleasure in listening while others speak of Him, treasuring up their words in the depth of your heart.

Let the sound of men’s voices strike only upon your ear; do you meanwhile lift up your heart to God; and if you must needs listen to their discourse in order to understand and reply to it, yet neglect not to cast your eye in thought to heaven, where God dwelleth, and contemplate His loftiness, as He ever beholds your vileness.

Consider well the things which your heart suggests to you before they pass on to your tongue; for you will perceive that many of them would be better suppressed. Nay, I can still farther assure you, that not a few even of those which you will then think it expedient to speak would be far better buried in silence; and so you will perceive, upon reflection, when the opportunity for speaking is past.

Silence is a strong fortress in the spiritual combat, and a sure pledge of victory.

Silence is the friend of him who distrusts himself and trusts in God; it is the guard of holy prayer, and a wonderful aid in the practice of virtue.

In order to acquire the practice of silence, consider frequently the great benefits which arise therefrom, and the evils and dangers of talkativeness. Love this virtue; and in order to acquire the habit of it, keep silence occasionally, even at times when you might lawfully speak, provided this be not to your own prejudice, or to that of others.

And you will be greatly helped to this by withdrawing from the society of men; for in the place of this, you will have the society of angels, saints, and of God Himself.

Lastly, remember the combat which you have in hand, that, seeing you have so much to do, you may the more willingly refrain from all superfluous words.

 

The Spiritual Combat text: here.

___

NEXT:

Chapter 25: To have victory, one needs interior tranquility

Live as God Desires You to Live [SERMON]

Listen to Deacon Bryan’s sermon for the Feast of St. James, July 25th.

Read this Gospel passage first:

The mother of the sons of Zebedee approached Jesus with her sons
and did him homage, wishing to ask him for something.
He said to her,
“What do you wish?”
She answered him,
“Command that these two sons of mine sit,
one at your right and the other at your left, in your Kingdom.”
Jesus said in reply,
“You do not know what you are asking.
Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?”
They said to him, “We can.”
He replied,
“My chalice you will indeed drink,
but to sit at my right and at my left, this is not mine to give
but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”
When the ten heard this,
they became indignant at the two brothers.
But Jesus summoned them and said,
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them,
and the great ones make their authority over them felt.
But it shall not be so among you.
Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant;
whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.
Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served
but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

 

 

Be as a Bee with a Queen

 

Bee

Consider the following example, as explained by St. Francis de Sales:

Bees cannot rest as long as they have no queen. They flutter about incessantly, wandering [here and there]; there is scarcely any repose in the hive. But as soon as their queen is born, they all gather around her, and stay there, never leaving her except to go and gather their spoils at her command.

Whenever we hear (or read) examples such as this, it’s good to actually stop and put an image in our “mind’s eye” (i.e. imagine the scene) to go along with the example: before the queen is born, the hive is in pure chaos. Of course bees cannot speak or use gestures as humans can, but they still communicate in some way so operations run smoothly in the hive.  Now, those who have done any sort of project with a big group know how important it is to have someone who at least knows the “big picture” or the general process of operation. That way, the rest of the group can go to this person and ask, “What do I do next? What role do I have in this process?” Without someone leading the crew, the problem arises of having too many people who think they know what’s going on, or no one knows what’s going on. Chaos is sure to follow. Direction is essential.

Back to the example with the bees… Not having a queen bee (the one who sees the big picture and knows how to make it all unfold perfectly) leads to chaos. When the queen bee is born, all the other bees approach and wait for direction. Chaos disappears and something as delicious as honey is produced (if we’re dealing with honey bees, that is). The hive thrives under the direction of the queen bee.

Let’s now apply that to humanity. Each human – you, your brother, friend, spouse, parent, me, etc. – lives according to what he “sees” in his own life. Some see outside of their own little ‘world’ but even then the scope is pretty narrow, considering the history of the entire world. No single human person can see the entirety of the big picture. Who can? God. For God, all things are one moment. Nothing escapes His vision, whether past, present, or future. He is our proverbial “queen bee”. Yet not all of us look to Him for guidance, waiting for His command for us to go and gather our spoils. Those who avoid His command live in chaos, as though they are bees without a queen. The saints, though, do nothing without receiving His command. Each day, they sit at His feet in prayer. Sometimes they are given very particular commands: feed this person, greet that person, give away this amount of money, visit this prisoner, comfort that mourner, etc. Always they are given general commands, which will allow the hive to thrive: feed the hungry, give money to the poor, clothe the naked, visit the prisoner, give shelter to the homeless, welcome the stranger, bury the dead, teach the ignorant, comfort the afflicted. Still a more general command did the saints receive from God: Be a holy priest. Be a holy nun. Be a holy husband, father. Be a holy wife, mother. Be a holy son or daughter. Be a holy disciple!

man praying in church

Prayer leads to a ‘hive’ that thrives. Prayer leads to a world that flourishes, breathes life, and produces true fruit.

Sit at the feet of God, as though you are a bee hovering around your queen. Wait for His command and then go gather your spoils for Him.

Work on Sunday [SERMON]

 

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Here’s a message as we begin the weekend. Read this Gospel passage first.

Matthew 12:1-8

Jesus was going through a field of grain on the sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “See, your disciples are doing what is unlawful to do on the sabbath.” He said to the them, “Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry, how he went into the house of God and ate the bread of offering, which neither he nor his companions but only the priests could lawfully eat? Or have you not read in the law that on the sabbath the priests serving in the temple violate the sabbath and are innocent? I say to you, something greater than the temple is here. If you knew what this meant, I desire mercy, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned these innocent men. For the Son of Man is Lord of the sabbath.”

Is Holiness Even Possible?

I read about the lives of the greatest saints – Francis of Assisi, Padre Pio, Augustine of Hippo, Mother Teresa, Maximilian Kolbe, Ignatius of Loyola, Thérèse of Lisieux, etc. – and see what great virtue they attained during their lives on Earth. Then I look at my own life and see my lack of virtue. I see my own laziness, pride, bad habits, poor character, lack of integrity, etc.

I’ll NEVER be able to get to the level of heroic virtue attained by the saints. I’ll NEVER be a saint. I’ll ALWAYS be stuck in this pool of sin, NEVER able to crawl out. The darkness will ALWAYS rule my life and I’ll NEVER be able to truly live in the light.

Child of God — STOP!! Realize your dignity!

These absolute words are the words of Satan, who wants you to think heroic virtue is impossible to attain. He wants you to think you will never be holy. Because it is in these very thoughts that virtue becomes impossible to attain and holiness never approached. DO NOT LET HIM WIN! Holiness is possible! Heroic virtue is something we can all attain!

Claim yourself as a child of God in the Name of Jesus Christ, who has already won the victory! Anytime you find yourself hearing these thoughts, simply exclaim:

“I claim myself as a child of God and a disciple of Jesus Christ! In the Name of Jesus Christ, I command you, Satan, to leave me at once! Jesus, come to my aid and win the victory for me! Redeem my life.”

Let the victory of Christ on the Cross be your victory everyday of your life. Flee temptations to sin and cling to the Cross; there – and only there – you will find freedom from Satan.

Cling

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