Let’s take a look at discipleship. Some say we are all called to be disciples – are we?
First, let’s look at what Jesus said;
The Holy Bible, Gospel of Mark Chapter 8, verses 34 – 38
The Conditions of Discipleship.
He summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? What could one give in exchange for his life? Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this faithless and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
Again, from the United States Bishops website, refer to the bottom of the page – we find a translation of His quote: “This utterance of Jesus challenges all believers to authentic discipleship and total commitment to himself through self-renunciation and acceptance of the cross of suffering, even to the sacrifice of life itself. Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it…will save it: an expression of the ambivalence of life and its contrasting destiny. Life seen as mere self-centered earthly existence and lived in denial of Christ ends in destruction, but when lived in loyalty to Christ, despite earthly death, it arrives at fullness of life.”
Looking at this in simple, realistic terms, with a bit of Cafeteria Catholic thrown in, Jesus tells us that we must first believe in Him, who is God on earth. Our Trinitarian God (God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit) are to be first in our lives – always. Before yourself, your spouse, your children, your job etc. etc. Without God, we are nothing, we have nothing.
After putting our Lord, God first – we are to bring others to know Him. We are to do this at risk of personal loss, including those Christians who are persecuted and executed for their love of God. This teaching has to be balanced out with some common sense. We are being asked to live good, godly lives.
Following the Commandments as he taught us: Mark 12:30-31 30You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these. This doesn’t mean we are to – or have to live the life of martyrs. God did give us life – to live. This is one of those readings that tend to scare people… being human and having selfish tendencies. It is important to explain this fully.
In the book of Mark Chapter 1 Verse 17 Jesus said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” My thoughts on this is Jesus is saying here that not all will come, not all will follow. I will teach you how to “fish” for those who will become followers of our Lord, God.
In the book of Mark Chapter 4 Verse 2-8
And he taught them at length in parables, and in the course of his instruction he said to them, “Hear this! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky ground where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep. And when the sun rose, it was scorched and it withered for lack of roots. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it and it produced no grain. And some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit. It came up and grew and yielded thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.”
If you continue reading down the page you will see His explanation to the 12 Disciples
Jesus said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? Then how will you understand any of the parables? The sower sows the word.These are the ones on the path where the word is sown. As soon as they hear, Satan comes at once and takes away the word sown in them. And these are the ones sown on rocky ground who, when they hear the word, receive it at once with joy. But they have no root; they last only for a time. Then when tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Those sown among thorns are another sort. They are the people who hear the word, but worldly anxiety, the lure of riches, and the craving for other things intrude and choke the word, and it bears no fruit. But those sown on rich soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.”
Jesus taught, He walked among men, women – children. Crowds would gather and He would speak. He taught using parables. Here He explains that though you work to reach many the seeds will fall and not all will take root. All knowledge and instruction is not going to reach each individual in the same manner. God created and designed each and every one of us.
In the Book of John Chapter 15 Verse 1-11
The Vine and the Branches. I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit. You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you. Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love.If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.
While the bottom of the same web link does offer the Roman Catholic churches take on this parable, I offer my own – which is actually what I remember being taught in my childhood as a Protestant; Here, Jesus is saying that as His followers we have already been pruned to become fruitful, in His name.
Our love and devotion does not come without cost. Being His disciple means being selfless and putting God and others before ourselves. Thankful we are that our God is a loving and forgiving God, because in our humanness, try as we must, we are not perfect. What a gift to know He has said “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.” Remember ~ Mark 12:30-31 “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’j 31The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor *as* yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Part 2 – How do we go about discipleship…
The beauty of Gods gifts allow us to grow in all things we do. Bringing others to God doesn’t happen in a church service (per say). To use a common phrase of Christians; What Would Jesus Do? Where did Jesus Christ go? Among the people.
What do I mean? For people to truly know God they must experience Him in their heart and soul. We can sit at Mass, or in a church service and listen but how often does one experience something in a church service that really reach into the souls of people? It is rare indeed.
Don’t these people, already in a church have a relationship with God?
I believe active disciples are people have a fire (light) that burns within. That draws them deeper to God. I believe that pull comes first from a calling of the Holy Spirit, and it requires an acceptance to turn oneself fully over to God.
What was Jesus asking us to do? He sent forth his disciples in sets of two, to go out and teach His word. To spread the Good News, the Gospel. How do I think we do this? First, trying to live as Christlike as possible while acknowledging and accepting as He does, we are His human children. In this we also are given many gifts from Him, gifts that include Faith, Hope and Love. Our life example, our story – our testimony, which at times means allowing our soft spots, our most vulnerable selves to be seen in order to help others heal and when we can, bring them closer to Christ. I know myself, all that I am and all that I will be are due to Him
I believe in personal relationships such as marriage or parenting, it is a responsibility to draw your loved ones ever closer to God with you. We are all taught – God first, then spouse, before self and this builds a solid, sacred bond. Married couples who have this foundation and work together with God are able to set a solid example of a committed loving relationship.
I believe it is important to work together in service to bring others to God. Both in family life, service / volunteering. I have read one of the best type of “dates” is to serve where God is needed (which is – everywhere, so be it a homeless shelter, domestic violence shelter group home, a school, a prison,visit a nursing home or pack up and move to Appalachia or a southern border overflowing with poor migrants). How about a “food drive” for an animal shelter (God loves animals too). In all of these types of outreach we are able to spend some time with people who need to be loved. People who need to feel God’s love and when we have a testimony or story to share, it brings people together – and closer to God. There are so many place and opportunities to spread the word.
Where there is God there is Love. Where there Love there is God. So there is to an extent discipleship that does happen within our intimate relationships.
Some ways I share Christs love for me is by sharing my every day life with people. It does have an affect and it is beautiful to be a part of. In another essay I mentioned a couple of things. One was – when being asked for a donation at a cashier and being asked for what name I wanted to put down. “God” was the first name out of my mouth. It wasn’t “my” dollar, it didn’t feel like it. The kids loved my reply (a spot I also “pay it forward and pay for an order behind me on occasion at the drive up).
As part of my job, I meet and work directly with executives in lieu of the owners. We were assigned a new gal recently, when she called to introduce and set up an appointment to meet with me, she asked when was a good time. I said we open at 8:30 – but I go to Mass in the morning before work and usually get in later than that. (I have permission – it is a “perk”). She remembered our conversation and when she came in to sit with me in my office it was an opportunity to share a bit of my love of God and how He has worked in my life. I literally had a bank Vice President sitting across from me with tears trailing down her face. God works through me. It’s not forced, it is not fake, it just happens. Well… perhaps not “just” Every morning I turn myself over to God in prayer and ask Him to use me in the ways that serve Him.
Today. . . I had sent a woman at a company that we do some work for an email, requesting needed information. Three or four emails, no reply. Hmmm, this is odd. I let it go for a few more days. Yesterday, I received the information in snail mail, today I received an email from my contact. We exchanged several (friendly) emails back and forth. She shared first that she had been out due to a family emergency and apologized for not getting back to me sooner. I responded :sic: not a problem at all, I knew something was off – I hope all is well now. – A longer response from her, sharing with me that her 88 year old father was ill, had two surgeries and had to go back in for another. My response? “Oh God Bless! I will offer a prayer, I hope that is okay. – I no longer have my parents, I do however take a lovely 88 year old woman out to brunch after mass every Sunday. It is amazing how resilient our elders are! Be well, XXXX”.
I know at least some reading this are saying – you did this with a business contact??? Yeah, I did and yes – it can be risky in the secular field – but I walk with Jesus ♥. Her response? “How nice of you! I was having breakfast with my dad after mass each week. I miss that time with him but I am blessed to have him all of these years. Thank you for the prayers.” – More emails flew back and forth. A simple way to share God’s love with others. Be patient, kind and loving – even with business associates.
Oh – and my Sunday brunch date? She and I have on occasion had the opportunity to witness to others while dinning out. Never in a “door knocking witness” sort of way. We literally had two young women with a baby stop by our table a few months back to talk about church, (they overheard our conversation) raising kids in Christ, etc. Be open to opportunities to share God with others.
Teaching our children to be disciples of Christ comes by their witnessing us in action (honestly – is that not how many learn?). My sons have the biggest hearts.
One child of mine has helped three other young people with addiction problems in the past six or seven months. It is a gift – seeing this one in action – bringing others to Christ too is amazing. He too has no fear of posting bible quotes or inspirational works to his Facebook wall (along with all of the crazy motorcycle and otherwise crazy young man things). He brings others to church with him too.
One of the days he was over to visit me last week, we were talking about Bibles and I ended up giving him a chronological bible I had recently purchased for a study group that I lost time to participate in. Between going to mass most mornings, (reading those bible readings ahead of mass) and recently adding several of the Divine Office readings (and other readings as I have done for these essays on discipleship) I am reading a lot (far more than the bible study class). I wish I could say my other two sons have followed this path, to date they have not but youngest and I still have hope.
It is my hope that at least one of these suggestions will work for you should you choose to step out in discipleship. I hope that sharing some of my experiences shows that with time
Sharing my love and knowledge of God flows naturally and freely.
I know there are others on this blog website who also share their love, hope, knowledge and experience with God. I have some (real life) friends on Facebook who enjoy bible and spiritual posts – one openly shares that she does this as a service to God. Facebook too – is a great way to spread the word, just remember we must walk what we talk leastwise we are hypocrites and dishonor our Lord, God. No human is perfect, we endeavor to do our best. God knows our hearts.
Thu, 28 Jan 2016