“The Gospel to Every Creature”
The Hebrew Catholic Vocation
The Hebrew Catholic has a heightened sense of responsibility towards carrying out our Lord’s final command, “Preach the Gospel to every creature”.
It is indeed a mitzvah (a commandment, an obligation associated with a very great blessing) of huge proportions. As with all such mitzvot (plural, commands), it contains within it an immense and breathtaking privilege which banishes all fear of obstacles and hindrances except those of our own making. The devout follower will fear only his or her own lack of faith and inadequate love of God.
We offer here, a motivating and perceptive call for action from a great Cardinal of the mid twentieth century. We leave each reader to reflect on it as they feel moved.
We have added numbers to each Section to provide a method of reference for our page of “Reflections” at the end. These are offered as a sampling of key thoughts in the article, for your consideration and discussion.
Unit 6 follows with suggestions for up-skilling ourselves to meet the challenge our Lord delivers to each of His followers.
The Gospel To Every Creature
By Leo Jozef Cardinal Suenens
1. Obeying the Command of the Lord.
“Go into the whole world and preach the Gospel to every creature.”
(St. Mark 16: 15)
(Footnotes have been added by AHC—NZ to assist readers.)
The New Testament ends with the momentous scene of the Master’s last meeting with His Apostles before His Ascension. Jesus had told the Eleven to meet Him in Galilee. As He had assembled them on a hill to hear His inaugural message, so it was on a hill again — perhaps the same one, writes Fr. Lagrange — that He confided their final mission to them. Jesus was waiting for them: at the sight of Him, they knelt in adoration. The moment was a solemn one. The Risen Master was coming to them as Lord of the world, His face shining with majesty. He drew near His Apostles and said, in a tone that recalled that of the Last Supper:
“All power is given to me in heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore into the whole world and preach the Gospel to every creature.
Baptize the nations in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you, and behold I am with you all days even to the consummation of the world.” (Mark 16: 15 and Matt. 28: 18-20).
2. “All power is given to me”
Never had such an astounding command been heard in the world. Jesus knew that, humanly speaking, the Eleven would be overwhelmed by their mission. To comfort them, He began by reminding them that all power was His “in heaven and on earth” and concluded with an undreamt-of promise that He Himself would fulfil that mission in them. Before we face the obstacles ahead of us and set out on our mission, it is well for us to measure the power of Him who sends us. Jesus has willed it so for all time. These obstacles will be numerous and weighty, as weighty as the stone sealed on Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb, and before which the holy women said to one another: “Who will roll back the stone from the door of the sepulchre?” But what matter since the risen Christ is with us, and since, by virtue of His Resurrection, a tombstone may still today point the way to Life!
During His time on earth, by virtue of His power, “the blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead rise again, the poor have the Gospel preached to them”‘ (Matt. 11: 5). But did He not say to His disciples: “He that believeth in me, the works that I do, he also shall do, and greater than these shall he do”? So the power of Christ prevails over time …………
If we are united to Christ by Grace, Christ will act through us.
This is a truth of our faith which influences our whole attitude to the world. However deplorable is the spiritual distress of a world or of a man, even if like Lazarus he has been four days in the tomb, we have-no right to doubt the Master’s words: “If thou believe thou shalt see the glory of God.” That is a permanent reason for never despairing of the conversion of the multitude.
The chances of success must not be estimated by laws of human probability. Active faith, which wins and holds fast the power of Christ, places in our hands a force strong enough to overturn the world and shatter tombstones and sealed sepulchres.
3. “Go ye into the whole world ……”
The Master’s command to go and preach the Gospel to every creature is not limited by time or space: it is addressed to all generations and all countries, as far as the ends of the earth.
Jesus asked His disciples to go forth and speak to men, to speak to them the words of life that He had taught them. That was all. But it was a task for giants.
It may be thought that that command does not concern us, that it was intended only for the Apostles, His immediate audience. But no — it cuts through time and space as lightning flashes through the clouds it is intended for the Apostles and for all those who, with them or after them, share their task; it is intended for each of us, to the last one. How could the Eleven, alone, fulfil such a commission? That there might be no misapprehension about it, the Master added: “Behold I am with you all days.” The Apostles died: their mission lives on in us and it is by our actions that Christ works every day and everywhere. Henri Bergson, while still on the threshold of the Church, wrote these lines: “What struck me in Jesus Christ was the order to go forward always; so that one might say that the stable element in Christianity is the command never to halt.” St. John Chrysostom in his day was already writing to Christians who tried to escape their duty: ” ‘Go and make disciples of all nations’ was not said for the Apostles only, but for us also. The promise does not concern them alone, but also all those who were to follow them; that may be seen by what is added: ‘even to the consummation of the world! The order leaves room for no evasion: it must be obeyed by all and that independently of success or failure. It was pointed out to a missionary in China, who had sacrificed a brilliant career in the world to go on the missions, that his work produced a very paltry result in comparison with the success of his earlier life. The missionary agreed that the soil he was cultivating brought forth very little fruit, but he added: “I am not here because of past or future success, but to obey the command of the Master and bring the Gospel to every creature#.” This is the answer of the truly faithful servant. It takes no account of visible results and cares but for the will of God.
# “Obedience is better than sacrifice.” (The Prophet Samuel’s words to King Saul — 1 Samuel 15: 22). It is required of all members of God’s household — and precedes any love we might think we have of God — since unless we submit to God’s will, all our thoughts, feelings, motives and actions can easily lead us astray.
4. “Go, preach the Gospel”
We must understand the depth of meaning in that word — the Gospel. It means, not a page or some words selected by us, but all the Gospel. We must go to men “teaching them to observe all things whatsoever have been commanded.” That is to say that we must teach them the moral law and the mystery of the Blessed Trinity, the Ten Commandments as well as the Beatitudes, the precepts and also the counsels. Men are hungry for the entire Christ, and we are forbidden to limit our teaching deliberately to rudiments of His doctrine …………
To each soul he must bring, as far as in him lies, all the lessons of the Gospel, one by one, line by line. He has not the right to pick and choose, or bury his treasures, which are given only to be handed on. “My words,” said Jesus, “are spirit and life.” We need them all for our nourishment, down to the last crumbs taken from the table. This does not mean that all the secrets of the King should be revealed at once, or without preparation. Jesus Himself spoke of pearls that must not be cast before swine, and St. Paul made a distinction between milk and stronger food. But Christ asks that every soul be prepared to receive the plenitude of Truth and Life: “I came,” He said, “that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” Evangelization implies entire Christianization# and that mission will never be completed.
# ‘entire Christianisation’ — Cardinal Suenens is referring to Christ’s disciples following the Lord faithfully and ordering their own lives in such a way that they exemplify the whole of His teaching and offer it to “every creature” — i.e. not finding excuses for putting themselves out, failing to go where it doesn’t suit them or appeal to them, and delivering only a watered down, incomplete Gospel which they haven’t really understood themselves. The disciples must live the Gospel fully themselves and be constantly renewed in it. “Entire Christianization”, means we are all learning together and there is a place for all who wish to join us.
5. “Go to every creature”
Every creature, that is, every man. When the Master says, all, He means all. To each individual soul without exception the message must be given*. Such is the command: it reflects the personal and ineffable love of God for each of the creatures that have come from His hands…….
* “…..the message must be given”. — That is, must not be withheld for one’s own reasons. Cardinal Suenens is not advocating “rubbing people’s faces in it,” as some ill-advised, crude missionary endeavours tend to do it. He refers to a judicious making of the Gospel message available to all peoples and nations in ways which are respectful, appropriate and properly motivated.
6. “And behold I am with you”
If the apostle is not to faint in the way, he must meditate deeply on these words, fragrant with an Easter morning freshness: “Behold I am with you all days even to the consummation of the World.” Nothing more powerful could have been said. Our security lies in them alone. Jesus did not promise success. There must be no misapprehension, under pain of building on an illusion or a misunderstanding. The apostle faced with coldness, hostility, ingratitude, failure, has no right to complain to the Lord. The Master said He would be with him — He promised no more, but He promised that — and the guarantee should suffice. Ego vobiscum: (Latin — I am with you) what a wonderful thing is this constant daily indefectible presence! We must believe in the presence of the Master with the faith of Our Lady, of the Apostles and of the saints. That faith would enable us, if it were active; to cope with the vastness of the mission we have been given. Its virtue is such that it reverses in our favour the play of the forces of good and evil. Faith opens a new world for us, in a sudden burst of light; thanks to its indwelling we can say with St. Stephen, “Behold I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.” And the glory of Christ who is living in every age reveals to us and illuminates the invisible world of the angels and saints, who are also with us in the contest, even to the consummation of the world. If the forces of Antichrist are unchained and frighten us, faith repeats quietly to us, as Elisha said to his servant who was terrified by a pursuing host: “Fear not, for there are more with us than with them.” And the mountain of Carmel became suddenly covered with heavenly horsemen. It is a figure of the Communion of Saints, which Christ brings with Him by His sovereign and glorious presence. Faith beholds a world of unknown and mysterious forces which it must gather and conserve. ………….
7. “And behold I am with you all days”
The Master is with us at every moment in history, in each generation as it passes. He wills to save our contemporaries, through us and without delay. He wills it with all His impatient love.
Much has been said of God’s patience, of His deliberate action. Let us understand this aright. God is love, and love is always impatient to communicate itself. God is in haste to give Himself to man. He cannot be resigned to be unknown, unloved. He is in haste to save each generation as it comes into the world. The slow working of His grace is not willed by Him: it comes in spite of Him, from the obstacles set by us to His action. To grasp that divine urgency, we must remember that, in God’s initial creative thought, the act of procreation was intended, through the immediate intervention of God, to beget saints, that is, children filled with the life of God from their first breath. Original sin# ruined that first plan, but it did not modify the love of God. He wills to give Himself to men today as He did yesterday. St. Paul’s “The charity of Christ presseth us,” echoes that divine urgency. God is patient because we drive Him to it. That patience is not a relaxing but an adaptation of His love. He is, if we may so express it, impatiently patient, and He asks us to translate His impatience into action by our apostolic eagerness.
# Original sin — Genesis 3: 1 — 7
There in a few lines is the sense of the Lord’s final command. Let us weigh it and set against it that other word of the Master’s: “If you love me, keep my commandments.” Love is not a lyrical outpouring; it is first of all a cleaving to the beloved: God measures our words by our actions, and the worth of those words depends on our readiness to submit to His will. The order “to go and preach the Gospel to every creature” must be obeyed. That commandment sums up all the others and carries them all within it. It is His last will and testament. Before meditating on those words, let us turn to the Lord, as He stands on the mountain; we must read them in His eyes, hear them from His lips, and follow the gesture of His hand, pointing towards the horizon. Let us receive them upon our knees, in our hearts, like a Eucharistic gift, and let us unite ourselves with the salvific will of God which they express. Then let us rise up and look towards the plain, towards the nameless, indeterminate multitude, which does not know that it is dying of hunger. It too will judge us by our obedience to the Master’s command, for its fate depends on our fidelity.
Will fear freeze us into conformity with the world’s
attitude or will faith urge us to walk upon the waters?
Shall we find strength to answer the call of God,
which is also the call of our age?
We follow this quotation from Cardinal Suenens with:—
- Reflections for meditation and discussion
- New Evangelisation
- Internet links to further reading
For meditation and discussion
Section 1 Obeying the Command of the Lord
a) The Lord Jesus has all power both in heaven and on earth — all — and the same power, in both realms. He designates “the whole world”, from this time forward, to be His vineyard in which we are to labour for God’s glory and the salvation of our fellow human beings; until He returns to complete the full establishment of His Kingdom.
b) His disciples are commanded to teach the complete observance of all He has taught. “Observance” in our Hebrew Catholic understanding, means careful compliance with His words and actions. That is why we take so seriously the consistent call by God to His people over the ages: Listen — Love — Live. Only when we ourselves follow His Teaching can we take Christ to the world. Only then can we BE Christ to the world.
Section 2 “All power is given to Me.”
a) We may feel bewildered by the frightening size of the task and what it will demand of us. Cardinal Suenens reminds us to keep in mind always “the power of Him who sends us”.
b) “If we are united to Christ by Grace, Christ will act through us.”
- “That is a permanent reason for never despairing of the conversion of the multitude.”
- “The chances of success must not be estimated by laws of human probability.”
This is Cardinal Suenens’ way of emphasizing that out task is to offer the Faith — never to “force-feed”. The results are God’s business and we should do all for His greater glory and not our pleasure in achieving the results we want to see.
Section 3 “Go ye into the whole world.”
a) The command applies to every member in some way:—
- Henri Bergson, “What struck me in Jesus Christ, was the order to go forward always; so that one might say that the stable element in Christianity is the command never to halt.”
- St. John Chrysostom (CE 347 to 407), ” ‘Go and make disciples of all nations’, was not said for the Apostles alone, but for us also. The promise does not concern them alone, but also those who were to follow them; that may be seen by what is added: even to the consummation of the world’!”
b) The Lord’s command calls for our obedience, not necessarily success!
- “It takes no account of visible results and cares but for the will of God.”
Section 4 “Go, preach the Gospel”
a) “Men are hungry for the entire Christ, and we are forbidden to limit our teaching deliberately to rudiments of His doctrine.”
b) “To each soul he must bring, as far as in him lies, all the lessons of the Gospel, one by one, line by line. He has not the right to pick and choose or bury his treasures, which are given only to be handed on.” This is why we offer the weekly Gospel “Reflections” — literally, “one by one, line by line” based on the Church’s Three Year Lectionary”.
Section 5 “Go to every creature”
a) “….. the message must be given”. It must be rendered accessible to those who can thereby choose to receive it and respond if they wish.
b) The command, “….. reflects the personal and ineffable love of God for each of the creatures that have come from his hands.
Section 6 “And behold I am with you”
a) “If the apostle is not to faint in the way, he must meditate deeply on these words.”
b) “If the forces of Anti-Christ are unchained and frighten us, faith repeats quickly to us, as Elisha said to his servant who was terrified by a pursuing host: ‘Fear not, for there are more with us than with them.’ And the mountain became suddenly covered with heavenly horsemen.”
Section 7 “And behold I am with you all days”
a) Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments”. God measures our words by our actions, and the worth of those words depends on our readiness to submit to His will.
b) The order “to go and preach the Gospel to every creature”, must be obeyed.
- That commandment sums up all the others and carries them all within it.
- It is His last will and testament.
The “New Evangelisation”
Any reader of this small work will, quite likely, wonder why we have taken a chapter from a book written in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s rather than from one of the vibrant and exciting works dealing directly with the New Evangelisation.
The writer of this paper is inspired by and committed to the teachings of Popes John Paul and Benedict XVI on the New Evangelisation. Indeed, we attach by way of appendicies to this Unit a small selection of wonderful articles which provide outstanding guidance in this whole topic.
The writer, as a young monk in the 1960’s was given a book as a gift:
“The Gospel To Every Creature” by Leo Jozef Cardinal Suenens.
Its vision inspired him then, as it does today. This unit, therefore, is, in a way, a humble tribute to this great giant of the Faith, whose passion and zeal continue to inspire — indeed, mobilise! The positive influence of Cardinal Suenens (like that of Monsignor, later Cardinal Cardijn) influenced significantly the wonderful insights embedded in Vatican II documents. Whilst some of our current language e.g. the new term itself “evangelisation”, is different, we can still rejoice in the formative influence these great souls have had in our lives.
The chapter chosen from Cardinal Suenens’ book reflects beautifully the Hebrew Catholic understanding of his phrase, “Obeying the command of the Lord”. His explanation is indceed very Hebraic, for he combines brilliantly the command from the Lord, ‘to go and preach the Gospel to every creature’, with the privilege of joining Him in aching for their welfare: physical and spiritual — and rejoicing when they are safe. That reflects the ancient Teaching, or Torah, that we will be very close to God when performing this mitzvah (command) because it comes from our Lord’s own Heart.
Thank you Cardinal Suenens and Cardinal Cardijn: your students honour you!
Likewise do we honour Pope Benedict XVI and the late Pope John Paul I and Pope John Paul II, whose wonderful inspiration is leading the Church into a new phase of service to God and all the world; reflecting our Lord’s own declaration: “The Son of Man came, not to be served, but to serve.”
Therein we find our Hebrew Catholic vocation: God’s Household servants, preparing His vineyard for His Return.
Amen. Come Lord Jesus!
(Revelation 22: 20)
Internet Links To Further Reading
3. The Use of Scripture in the New Evangelisation — Reclaiming the Story,
by Frank J. Matera.