To baptize in the name of the father, Son and Spirit, is to build life-giving communities which empower others
In Kenya, I often walk past a nice, small Hotel called After 40. One day I went in and asked if that meant the Hotel specialised in people over 40? They said: no, the owner chose that name because of her Christian Faith: throughout the Bible there are many references to “40”, and after each of those Biblical events something good, something great, happened.
After 40 days, the Ascension brought the geographical limitation of Jesus to an end: physically present on earth, Jesus could only help, or be present, to a few people. After the Ascension Christ was available for all people through all time. However, that was not the end.
Jesus invited His Apostles to continue the mission: “Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” so they may be certain they belong to the family of God.
Why did Jesus emphasise “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit?” On Trinity Sunday we will discuss more, but it emphasises the essential element of Community amongst us, by inviting us to model ourselves on God as Community.
For many centuries, it was thought that the instructions of Jesus meant that, without baptism, people could not enter Heaven. But that is not the intention of God: Baptism leads people out of slavery to sin and despair: to create and experience Heaven on earth (healthy community).
St Eugene de Mazenod (founder of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, d.1861 today), imitated Christ by commissioning “disciples” to continue the instructions given by Jesus to His disciples. The Oblates have spread to about 70+ countries around the world, to do just that.
The death-bed instructions of St Eugene to his Oblates were: “amongst yourselves practice charity, charity, charity and, outside, zeal for souls.” In other words, build healthy community, and invite others to also build communities of people free from slavery to sin and despair.
But how? Where did the Apostles and Oblates get that strength, conviction and courage? It is through the power of the Holy Spirit, explained to us today in the First Reading.
Through Baptism and Confirmation, we receive the Holy Spirit and, through the Eucharist, we are reminded and strengthened by Christ to remember God’s presence in our lives.
At the risk of sounding like a heretic, perhaps the instruction of Jesus to “baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” means, first of all, to create community. And “teach them to observe all the commands I gave you” is simple logic: unless the members of a community believe/ live the same “rules” it will fall apart.
Did you note in the Gospel how it states 11 disciples? It is clearly stated to note that one is missing: and an invitation for us to “help out”.
In Greek, Theophilus, means “friend of God”. Meaning that God is talking directly to each one of us as a friend. We are reminded of the promise Jesus gave: that God would send the Holy Spirit upon us to empower us to carry out the mission to build community & give people hope.
It is also curious that Gospel tells us “though some hesitated”. This hesitation is a healthy sign that those disciples finally grasped the reality that Jesus was both man and God, rather than assumed to be doubt about Jesus. Imagine the sight: a man crucified, stands before them.
This can help us understand when other people hesitate to be missionary, or to join in community life. It’s OK to hesitate and think: God wants me: really? We often doubt our own goodness. Those in community, must be gentle but persistent in welcoming people who say no.
The issue of hesitation is often observed by parents as their children go through various stages of development: they hesitate to let go of mum’s hand and enter school; to go to boarding school, etc. I hesitated for five years before joining the Oblates with some fear!
So, the final message of Jesus is important for us to remember: know that I am with you always. Each one of us is a disciple: it’s OK to hesitate, but not forever, or you will be lonely!
Just as, when we teach someone something we learn it better for ourselves, so too when we help to create Community we increase our own sense of belonging.
Finally, the Holy Spirit is a powerful gift, and with great power we have two choices: use that power to empower others, or to selfishly use, or hide, that power for myself =self-destruction.
These final instructions of Jesus do not included the words “worship me”, nor anywhere else in the NT. Jesus only ever said: “follow me,” or “come and see.” However, though important, many Catholics believe that by prayer and Mass they have done their duty. But, our primary duty is to build community and empower others: our own happiness depends on it.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI