daily biblical sermons

The great commission is being attacked within the Catholic Church today and needs to be reaffirmed
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Saturday, 14th Week of the Year, July 11, 2020
Isaiah 6:1-8, Psalm 92, Matthew 10:24-33

Biblical quotations are taken from the Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted




“Have no fear of them; for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, utter in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim upon the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell … So every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:26-28, 32-33).



This chapter ten of St. Matthew’s gospel contains Jesus’ missionary discourse, where he prepares his disciples to go out and preach the gospel of the kingdom of God and call people to repent and put their faith in it. But he warns them that it will not be an easy task, for many will reject their preaching and attack them. But Jesus tells them not to fear this, but rather, “What I tell you in the dark, utter in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim upon the housetops” (Matthew 10:27).



Jesus tells them that they are not to expect better treatment than he himself received. “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master; it is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household” (Matthew 10:24-25). So Jesus prepares them, lest they have false expectations of great success and become discouraged when they see that not everyone will accept their preaching, but many will turn against them, criticize them, speak against them, and persecute them.



Nonetheless they are to proclaim from the housetops and in the light what Jesus whispered to them in closed rooms. Jesus could not openly proclaim his gospel in a clear way, because before his death and resurrection, which are the central events that brought salvation to the world, no one would have understood that preaching. Clear preaching of the gospel came after Jesus’ death and resurrection, and we find many examples of it in the letters of St. Paul and in the Acts of the Apostles. That is what we are now to do, namely preach the gospel clearly.



Jesus taught mostly in parables that the people really did not understand. His own disciples did not really understand them either until after Pentecost. But now is not the time to preach in riddles that no one can clearly understand or get the point of, but rather we are to clearly preach the apostolic kerygma, the apostolic preaching, the gospel message, in terms that everyone can understand.



But this clear preaching will also bring us persecution and rejection, because not everyone wants to hear the clear gospel message. Especially those living lives of grave sin – particularly sexual sins wherein they find all their pleasure and joy – will not want to hear the Christian gospel and the preaching of Christian morality, for it will put a wet blanket on what they most enjoy in life. So should his disciples use their common sense and see that if they proclaim salvation in Jesus Christ through faith in him and repentance from their sins, they will be persecuted, and therefore should they stop preaching this in order to have a more peaceful life?



No! If they disobey God’s great commission to preach salvation in Jesus Christ, through his atoning death and justifying resurrection, then God will turn against them and his punishment of them will be far more serious than any punishment that human beings can give them, for God can destroy them body and soul in hell forever. Human beings can only kill the body, but not the soul, and if they kill the body of a Christian preacher for preaching the gospel, that person’s soul will go immediately to God in heaven, and his condition will be far better than it was on earth. So “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both body and soul in hell,” namely fear God (Matthew 10:28).



Furthermore, if we acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world and preach his gospel before men, Christ will acknowledge us before his Father in heaven. If, however, out of fear of what people might do to us or say about us or think about us we deny Christ before them, Christ will also deny us before his heavenly Father. “So every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32-33).



What is the purpose of acknowledging Christ before men, that is, of preaching his gospel before those who have never heard it or before those who have heard it but have not accepted it or have once accepted it but have now rejected it? The purpose of preaching the gospel to these people is that they might be converted, that they might become disciples, that they might be baptized, and thereby attain eternal salvation. This is God’s will for us. This is the way God saves people, namely through his Son. He sent us to announce this salvation, explain it, and invite people to believe in this good news that salvation is now available through faith in Jesus Christ, because of his atoning death on the cross that made reparation for our sins so that those that put their faith in him might be acquitted of their sins and declared righteous by God.



This is especially important today when some of our highest Catholic Church leaders are now falsely proclaiming that no one should ever try to convert anyone to Christianity. It is indeed puzzling why anyone would teach such false doctrine that so clearly contradicts Jesus’ great commission. The great commission is being denied today by some of our highest Church leaders. What is the great commission? It is what the risen Jesus said when commanding his disciples to preach the gospel to the whole world in order to convert all who believe in it. These are the words of the great commission: “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” (Matthew 25:19-20).



Jesus doesn’t say go and preach to the nations, but don’t make disciples of them and don’t baptize them and don’t teach them that they must observe all that I have commanded you. He does not say this. But one would think that he did say this, when one listens to the false teaching of some of our highest Church leaders today who tell us that the worst thing you can possibly do is to try to convert someone to Christianity, that is, the worst thing that you can possibly do is make disciples of all nations and baptize them and teach them to observe all that I have commanded you. A more direct contradiction of one of Jesus most important sayings would be hard to find.



That is why we need to stress today the great commission, because it is not an obvious truth to many people in the Church today who listen to the false teaching of many of their highest Church leaders. Why do these leaders tell us not to make disciples of all nations and not to baptize anyone and not to teach them to observe what Jesus taught us? Perhaps it is because they falsely believe that everyone will automatically be saved and that their own indigenous or native religions are just as good as Christianity to get them saved, and so there is no need to preach the gospel to anybody who doesn’t already believe in it.



Some of our leaders are saying that we shouldn’t preach to nonbelievers at all, but just live our Christian life, and that our good example will attract them to want to join us. But the gospel is a revealed message that needs to be communicated in words, namely the message that God has sent his Son to vicariously suffer our death penalty for our sins for us on the cross so that when we put our faith in him and depend on his death for our salvation, God will acquit us and justify us. But this is not something that anybody could possibly figure out by human reason. This is a revelation from God given to us by his Son and recorded in the New Testament.



So how are people going to know what the gospel is so that they can believe in it and become Jesus’ disciples, as Jesus wants them to do if no one preaches to them and explains to them what the gospel is. So we need missionaries, not to just give good example, but to make the gospel message known in places where it is not yet clearly known. No one can put his trusting faith in Jesus Christ who has never heard of him or what he has done for them, as St. Paul said, “But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent?” (Romans 10:14-15 NRSV).



So what the Catholic Church needs today is to be renewed by a recommitment to follow the great commission. This is one of the most important points, where many in the Catholic Church in our own day have fallen flat on their face, basically denying the great commission and proclaiming the opposite, namely that you should never try to convert anyone to Christianity, that is, that you should never try to make disciples of anyone, certainly not of all nations, and so you shouldn’t baptize anyone either and you shouldn’t teach them to observe all that Christ has taught us.  



This is the anti-great commission. If the Church is to be renewed in our day, we must overcome the anti-great commission with the authentic great commission of the risen Jesus and preach the gospel to all nations in order to make disciples of all nations, that is, in order to convert them to faith in Jesus Christ by their own free will by clearly hearing the gospel message preached and explained to them.

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