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I am with you always...

Aug 6

Written by:
8/6/2017 12:25 AM  RssIcon

At the very end of Matthew’s account of the Gospel, Jesus gives the Great Commission to the Eleven, with the following words:


“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.”” (Matthew 28:18-20)


That commission has been passed down through the ages and continues to be at the heart of missionary efforts of the Church, which can easily be summarized as to bring Jesus Christ and His message of Salvation to all areas of our world.


In the time of the Early Church, this missionary mandate led Sts. Peter and Paul (among many others!) to travel widely to bring the Good News to as many people as they could. St. Paul, especially, seems to be driven by the mantra ‘Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!’ That same drive was passed down to the earliest of the followers of this new way, as they had a sense that Jesus was coming back soon and we need to introduce as many people as we can in order that they not suffer condemnation. They also shared an urgency that if they failed to preach the Gospel, they themselves could fall into condemnation as well!


When Christianity became legalized under the Edict of Milan by the Emperor Constantine in 313 A.D., the Church was finally able to start to formalize more of the rites of initiation, especially for adult converts to the faith. The initial urgency of ‘Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel’ started to slowly fade, however. But some of that reasoning was understandable. By 500 A.D., or thereabouts, most of the ‘known world’ at the time had become Christian and were living in at least an overtly Christianized realm in the Empire.


There were still some brave missionaries who went to the barbarians on the fringe of society and they made some inroads, but it would take awhile to bring them into the fold of authentic Christianity. As a side note, after some of the early Christological heresies had been settled, the followers of Arianism (which was finally condemned and mostly rooted out of the Church by this time) took on a greater missionary appeal than the main fold of the Church. So when Catholic missionaries would reach some of these tribes, they found that they had already been introduced to the Gospel, or at least part of the Gospel, by the Arians who preceded them.


The missionary mandate was still being observed, but it had moved from being part and parcel of the life of the Christian to being somewhat of a specialty among those trained to do something specific. As the journey through history continues, we will find that this change in outlook among members of the community will have drastic effects. And I will pick up that theme next week.


God Bless

Fr. Kyle Schnippel

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