Making Disciples of All Nations

“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.” (Mt 28:19-20)

These are the last words from our Lord to the Apostles prior to ascending into Heaven, and they contain both a command and a promise. The command — make disciples of all nations. The promise — behold, I am with you always.

The two go hand in hand, since, without the promise, the command would be impossible to fulfill. At the Last Supper, the Lord gave to His Apostles a sacred ritual by which He would continue to dwell among us in this world. “This is My Body … this is My Blood … Do this in remembrance of Me.” Whenever we attempt to fulfill anything the Lord has asked of us, we are fortified by the recollection and the reception of His promised presence among us.

Having recalled and received the promise, we become what we receive, as Pope St. Leo the Great said, as we are transformed to become more and more like Christ. With this understanding, it is no wonder that the Catechism of the Catholic Church poignantly states, “The Sunday celebration of the Lord's Day and His Eucharist is at the heart of the Church's life.” (§2177)

So that gets us through an hour a week on Sundays, but what about the rest? We must be followers of Christ for the other 167 hours of the week as well. So, what is a Christian to do?

The first thing is to make sure that we keep track of our spiritual “temperature.” Our temperature is in the “normal range” if we maintain an unshakable faith in God’s mercy, the merits of Christ, and the value of the sacraments. We must add to this a realistic appraisal of our weaknesses. Furthermore, if our formed conscience does not “nag” us about the choices we have made, we are on the right track. Finally, if we find joy in holy things, a desire to do the will of God, and a desire to do works of charity, we are in great shape.

What if we have a spiritual “fever”? In our program-driven, quick-fix-minded world, it is easy to overlook what the Church already offers us in favor of the latest and “shiniest” thing. However, neither the greatest program nor the newest devotion will accomplish what we need if we do not partake of the tried-and-true treasures that have endured throughout the history of Christendom.

Remember them as the four C’s — communion, confession, conversation, charity. Communion, obviously, refers to Holy Communion. We have already looked at that above, so not much more need be said here. However, it is worth recalling here the words of St. John Vianney, “O my God, what joy is a Christian’s who, as he rises from the Holy Table, carries all of Heaven in his heart.” If Heaven is in our hearts, what more do we need, and why not receive Heaven more than just on Sunday if we can!

Unfortunately, even Heaven can be thwarted if it does not find a willing receptacle. That is where the second ‘C’ comes in — confession.

When we make a good and thorough confession, our souls are returned to their baptismal glory. In the words of St. Augustine, “Each one must confess his sin so that God’s forgiveness, already granted on the Cross, may have an effect in his heart and in his life.”

God gave us an infinitely repeatable sacrament of mercy because He knew we would need infinite encounters with His mercy! As Pope St. John Paul II beautifully said in a homily in San Antonio in 1987, “Confession is an act of honesty and courage — an act of entrusting ourselves, beyond sin, to the mercy of a loving and forgiving God.” To connect the first two “C’s,” we are told by St. John Bosco, “You can fly to Heaven on the wings of confession and communion.”

Finally, the third ‘C’ — conversation — refers to our daily communication with God in prayer. One measure of our success in daily prayer is to compare how much time we reserve each day to commune with God to how much time we spend on our phones, in front of our computers, or watching television. If Heaven is where we hope to be, and Heaven is a state of eternal union of mind and heart with God, why not start expanding that union with Him here on earth each day. Not only will this increase our longing to be united with Him in Heaven, but we will experience more and more, even during our earthly pilgrimage, the joy, peace, and fulfillment of the heavenly kingdom.

As St. Ephrem of Syria teaches us: “Virtues are formed by prayer. Prayer preserves temperance.  Prayer suppresses anger. Prayer prevents emotions of pride and envy. Prayer draws into the soul of the Holy Spirit, and raises man to Heaven.”

The fourth “C” is the result of the other three — acts of charity, or any good deed done selflessly for another. If we have been raised to Heaven, even on earth, then it is impossible not to want to do good for our brothers and sisters. Interestingly, the Catechism speaks of active charity as “liturgy,” along with divine worship and the proclamation of the Gospel (cf. §1077). This is because to lay down our lives for the good of our brothers and sisters is the supreme fulfillment of our transformation in Christ.

As an addendum, a fifth “C” would be worth considering — the “Crown of Roses,” as St. Louis de Montfort calls the Holy Rosary. As we are encouraged by St. Anthony Marie Claret, “When people love and recite the Rosary, they find it makes them better.”

While this may sound overly simplistic, it is the same plan followed by all the saints in Heaven who have lived our life over the last 2,000 years — tried-and-true! So, try it! And see what the Lord has in store for you, in this life and in the next!

Father Kevin Bazzel recently completed six years of service in the Congregation for the Clergy in the Holy See. During his time in Rome, he also served as an adjunct spiritual director at the Pontifical North American College. Earlier this year, he returned to the Diocese of Birmingham and resumed his priestly ministry amongst the people of God in the diocese.