Go Make Disciples
In Matthew 28:18-20, we read:
And Jesus came and said to them, "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 is Jesus telling us to Go and Evangelize. I'd like to quote from a publication of the USCCB: "Today, through the ministry of the Church, Jesus continues to call all people to himself. It is estimated that
only 23 percent of U.S. Catholics attend Mass each week. Those 77 percent absent from the eucharistic
feast each week are not strangers: they are our parents, siblings, spouses, children, and friends. According to a recent Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) study, the most common reasons
given by Catholics who do not regularly attend Mass are not related to controversial issues. The reasons
given instead point to a gradual slipping away from the faith. Most Catholics stop attending Mass because
they (1) have busy schedules or a lack of time, (2) have family responsibilities, (3) have health problems
or disabilities, (4) have conflicts with work, (5) do not believe missing Mass is a sin, or (6) believe that
they are not very religious people.7 In other words, many of our brothers and sisters have simply drifted
away from the Church. This is due in part to the busyness of modern life and to a changing culture. There
are also Catholics who attend Mass on a regular basis but who feel unconnected to the parish community."
To sum up this 31+ page file from the USCCB (from "In Conclusion")
" Through our Baptism, we become witnesses to the Gospel and disciples of Christ. As disciples and witnesses, we are called to ongoing conversion. To become evangelizers, we must first be evangelized. If we
truly believe in the Gospel, then as a Church, we must take seriously Christ’s commandment to “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.” We bring the Good News to
all people and nations, including those who have never heard of Christ, those who are no longer actively
practicing their faith, and all those who are fervent in the faith. The New Evangelization challenges us
to “re-propose” the Gospel to our missing brothers and sisters—those members of the Body of Christ who
have drifted away from the Lord’s Table.
The purpose of this resource is to encourage and assist diocesan and eparchial bishops and their
pastoral leaders in their outreach efforts to engage our missing brothers and sisters. As the Church prepares
for the 2012 Synod on the New Evangelization, new material will be added to this web-based resource.
Each diocese, eparchy, and parish will implement this document in the manner most suited to its needs.
Some will create door-to-door programs, use social media, develop printed resources, participate in local or
national programs, or engage in a combination of all these activities. As dioceses and parishes begin preparations to create or renew their outreach to our missing brothers and sisters, it is important to remember
that the New Evangelization is “primarily a spiritual activity.” We are called to invite our missing brothers
and sisters back to life in the Church—a life in which we all experience God’s love and mercy through the
community of faith, nurture our spiritual lives through the sacraments and prayer, and are formed into true
disciples of Christ.
It is evident that the above quoted text is aimed primarily toward the diocese, parishes, and parish resource people, such as Directors of Religious Education, Priests, Deacons, and those involved in Catechesis. Lay Catholics can help with the proper training (to be Catechists). There are, however a great many people, the active Catholics in each Parish, using Holy Scripture and (hopefully) the Catechism of the Catholic Church, who can spread the Good News and invite wayward Catholics back to the Sacraments. In addition, all of us can pray that this "New Evangelization" effort will succeed.
Unfortunately, in the past, Evangelization was left to the Priests and Deacons, and many Catholics still believe that the Church discourages the use of the Bible as a reference resource. This is no longer the case, and all Catholics are urged to Evangelize, and use all the resources at our disposal. Begin with those you know, your friends who have stopped going to Church (for whatever reason). If only we would all take a hand in this and invite our non-Mass going friends back to the Sacraments.
Secular Franciscans through their extensive formation, especially with the new formation material, can be most helpful in this regard. Let us become missionaries and spread the Good News, which was always our goal, but especially now that so many have fallen away or simple gone somewhere else.
God bless you!
Fred Schaeffer, OFS
April 17, 2012
All Scripture RSV.
USCCB quotations from: "Disciples Called to Witness" [ http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/how-we-teach/new-evangelization/disciples-called-to-witness/index.cfm ]