The Great Commission of Matthew 28

By Stacy Mitch

As a college student, I spent a lot of time evangelizing. I talked about Jesus to my friends and classmates on campus, and I talked about Him to perfect strangers on a summer mission project, in housing projects, and just about every other place I could think of. I even talked about Him one Spring break in a biker bar! Those to whom I talked were atheists, Mormons, agnostics, members of Hare Krishna, fellow Christians, and just about every other religious persuasion you can imagine.

While all that talking can be intimidating and a bit scary at first, I quickly learned that people want to hear the Gospel. They yearn for Jesus and the peace that only He can bring. They feel a void, an emptiness. Something is missing from their life, and they know it. Most people try to fill that void with what the world tells them will make them happy—money, sex, and power. But what they soon find out is that none of those things quite do the trick. In fact, they only leave them feeling emptier. What these people have, what we all have, is a Christ-shaped hole in our hearts. And only He can fill it.

Often, when people hear the Gospel, they know immediately that this is what they’ve been longing for all along. As St. Augustine said, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.” I saw the truth of this in the eyes of those with whom I shared Jesus. Sometimes, of course, people run from Jesus. They don’t want to hear what you want to share right then. But over time, words once spoken can sink in, take root in restless hearts, and finally fill that void.

That’s why Jesus wants us to share the saving message of the Gospel with our friends, neighbors, and family. Because they want it. They need it. They can’t live without it. And even when we don’t see immediate fruits, that doesn’t mean that seeds haven’t been planted.

So, how do we go about sharing the Gospel? There are countless ways, more ways than we could ever list here. The important thing is to just do it. And as with every other aspect of our Christian life, this call to spread the Gospel requires courageous generosity.

French priest and author Fr. Jean C.J. d’Elbée said, “In speaking of the apostolate, I shall begin with a strong statement: in order to be a fruitful apostle, begin by being a saint—a soul of love. The only fruitfulness is holiness.”

Before Jesus’ Ascension into heaven, He gave His apostles the “Great Commission.”

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. Matthew 28:1820

Here, it’s important to note that lay people are not the normal administers of the Sacrament of Baptism, although it is possible in necessary situations. Typically, the privilege of baptizing another is reserved for the priest or deacon of the parish welcoming the person into communion with God and the family of God. This doesn’t mean, however, that we’re not called to carry out the “Great Commission” given by Christ to His apostles in Matthew 28.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, tells us that the Sacrament of Confirmation: “gives us a special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith by word and action as true witnesses of Christ, to confess the name of Christ boldly, and never to be ashamed of the Cross” (CCC 1303).

It goes on to say that, “This ‘character’ perfects the common priesthood of the faithful, received in Baptism, and ‘the confirmed person receives the power to profess faith in Christ publicly and as it were officially (quasi ex officio)’” (CCC 1305). These passages make it clear that the sharing of the Gospel is not something reserved for only those who receive Holy Orders. All of the confirmed faithful are called and empowered to this great task.

Stacy Mitch is the author of the highly popular Courageous Women Bible study series.

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