The opening two paragraphs of the Catechism of the Catholic Church provide an excellent commentary on today’s readings. The first paragraph is a wonderful summation of the Gospel, beginning with God’s loving creation of man, an act with this great goal: man sharing in God’s divine life.
This is foreshadowed in today’s first reading, from Deuteronomy. Moses challenged the people to consider the uniqueness of the one, true God: “Did a people ever hear the voice of God speaking from the midst of fire, as you did, and live?” No, because the combination of gods and fire usually meant human sacrifice. But God uttered words of life; he gave the Law. And he established a covenant, taking “a nation for himself.” All of this was meant to create and sustain a particular way of life. “You must keep his statutes and commandments that I enjoin on you today,” Moses emphasized, “that you may have long life on the land.” While that land was physical, the ultimate promised land is heaven.
We are, the Catechism further explains, all called to seek, know and love God; we are invited “into the unity of his family, the Church.” The Church is the seed and beginning of the Kingdom, still growing throughout time like a great tree. This redemptive work is accomplished through the Son, in whom God “invites men to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children and thus heirs of his blessed life.”
St. Paul proclaims this message in his great letter to the Romans. “For those who are led by the Spirit of God,” he wrote, “are sons of God.” He refers to the “spirit of slavery,” the power of sin, which grows through fear, greed, lust and pride. But like the Israelites, freed from slavery in Egypt and called to be a nation, we are freed from slavery to sin, called to enter God’s family.
God, at Mount Sinai, spoke words that promised life, land and prosperity. God, the Incarnate Word, also offers life, land and prosperity, but it is eternal life, a heavenly home. This is why St. Paul stated that Christians are not just children of God endowed with supernatural grace but “heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.”
The second paragraph of the Catechism quotes the Great Commission, heard in today’s Gospel. Jesus took the 11 to “the mountain,” a place where God speaks to man about matters of eternal consequence. The disciples then worshipped the God-man — yet they doubted. Why? Faith, in this life, is constantly challenged; it wavers and wanes, and so needs to be nourished and to grow. Knowing their doubt, Jesus approached them, saying, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”
It was a clear claim to divinity and kingship. Jesus, the King of kings, commanded the apostles to go and make disciples of all nations. Jesus, the great high priest, directed them to baptize in the name of the one, true God, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And Jesus, the true and final prophet, told them to teach the nations “to observe all that I have commanded you.” The apostles were thus commissioned in the saving work of Christ as king, priest and prophet. As are we: “The whole People of God participates in these three offices of Christ and bears the responsibilities for mission and service that flow from them” (Catechism, No. 783). In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!
Carl E. Olson is the editor of IgnatiusInsight.com.