This recent post on Justin Taylor’s blog gave me much to ponder. The reference to Hebrews 5:7 in the last paragraph will undoubtedly surface in my upcoming rosary meditations on the First Sorrowful Mystery.
Today’s Gospel Reading at Mass (Mt 10:26-33) is a segment of the instructions which Jesus gave to His Apostles (ref Mt 10:1,5) just prior to sending them out on their first missionary expedition. It concludes with Mt 10:32-33
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.
What does Jesus mean by “acknowledge me”? CCC n. 1816 teaches us (quoting these exact verses) (emboldened text is my emphasis added):
The disciple of Christ must not only keep the faith and live on it, but also profess it, confidently bear witness to it, and spread it: “All however must be prepared to confess Christ before men and to follow him along the way of the Cross, amidst the persecutions which the Church never lacks.” Service of and witness to the faith are necessary for salvation: “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.
In Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) n. 120, Pope Francis describes our duty to acknowledge Jesus before others (emboldened text is my emphasis added):
In virtue of their baptism, all the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples (cf. Mt 28:19). All the baptized, whatever their position in the Church or their level of instruction in the faith, are agents of evangelization, and it would be insufficient to envisage a plan of evangelization to be carried out by professionals while the rest of the faithful would simply be passive recipients. The new evangelization calls for personal involvement on the part of each of the baptized. Every Christian is challenged, here and now, to be actively engaged in evangelization; indeed, anyone who has truly experienced God’s saving love does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and proclaim that love. Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus: we no longer say that we are “disciples” and “missionaries”, but rather that we are always “missionary disciples”….So what are we waiting for?
Any parish that is not engaging in a substantial amount of evangelization, and whose parishoners themselves are not “actively engaged in evangelization” is failing to heed the demand of Jesus and His Church echoed by Pope Francis. On the vigil of Pentecost (June 3rd), Abp Vigneron inaugurated his extraordinarily innovative plan — entitled Unleash the Gospel — to have each parish in the Archdiocese of Detroit become a parish of missionary disciples.
For the latest teaching of the US Bishops on being missionary disciples, you can read this booklet that they published last month.