Last week, we looked at the “Parish Priorities”
that I am calling us, as a parish, to pursue together.
And if you recall, the second goal is “Making more disciples.”
Listening to the readings, that seems a good topic to explore this week.
The word “disciple” means one who is taught;
but it’s more than what happens
when you’re a student at RHS or college.
You go to school, you put in your time, maybe you have homework –
but you can’t wait till you’re finished.
If that’s your idea of how to follow Jesus, you’re doing it wrong.
Jesus’ disciples went where he went, they lived with him.
They weren’t with him just to learn a trade or gain a degree;
this was about a new life.
In the readings, we see his disciples in action.
The deacon Philip is sharing Christ with people.
But notice, he isn’t just there to tell them things;
he shows concern for their well-being.
People are healed through his work.
And in the second reading, Peter tells us:
be ready to give an answer to everyone,
concerning the reason for your hope.
These are the things that disciples do,
because they are doing what Jesus did, because they were with him.
So, as I was thinking about what it means to be a disciple,
I came up with four qualities; and to make it simple,
they can be summed up in four words:
Open, Turn, Time, and Teach.
That is to say, being a disciple of Jesus
starts with us really opening ourselves; turning toward the Lord,
giving him time, and letting him teach us.
“Opening ourselves”: that means more than the minimum,
more than just checking the boxes and following the rules.
That’s what a lot of people think being a Catholic is –
and that’s what a lot of people want it to be.
Tell me what I have to do:
how many times do I have to show up at church or CCD or for meetings.
Give me a list of dos and don’ts, and I’ll check them off.
And if I do something wrong? I’ll go to confession; I’m good to go.
If you want to be his disciple, open yourself to Christ!
Pope Benedict said once
that we are often afraid to entrust ourselves entirely to God,
because we think he will take something away
and we will be less ourselves.
On the contrary, Benedict said:
when we really abandon ourselves to God’s will,
only then do we really become fully ourselves!
The second word is “turning”: we must turn to God.
Jesus said, “if you want to be my disciple,
take up your cross, and follow me.”
We must turn from our sins and turn toward him.
This conversion isn’t just once; we learn quickly enough as his followers,
that we must repent over and over. And you see that with the Apostles.
They were always losing their way,
and Jesus would help them turn back to him.
And that, too, was part of their learning and growing.
There’s another way we must be ready to turn:
Jesus himself is going to surprise us
with turns and directions we don’t expect.
When I was 16, I was certain I would be an attorney.
When I applied for college, I expected an Air Force scholarship,
but that didn’t happen. When the time came to apply to law school,
I discovered I didn’t want to be a lawyer after all!
Instead, I worked as a journalist. A few turns later,
I was working in politics. And then, at age 35,
I entered the seminary, and here I am, a priest.
I never saw it coming, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
So if you want to be his disciple, be ready to keep turning back to him, staying close to him, whichever way he takes you.
The third word is “time.”
There can be no discipleship
unless we are prepared to give our time to Jesus.
If you look at the Gospels,
the Apostles were almost always with Jesus –
only occasionally off on their own.
And when he was telling them about his departure –
today’s Gospel gives us part of that conversation –
Jesus promised the Holy Spirit,
so that he would be with them “always, until the end of the world.”
You might be thinking, I can’t give Jesus all my time!
I have work, I have chores, I have a business to run,
friends, sports, school and papers and studying to do!
But there is no contradiction.
Obviously, this giving of time to Jesus involves prayer;
prayer is absolutely indispensable.
What you will find is that if you give Jesus
a part of your time in prayer – it need not be a lot,
even 15 minutes will do –
and if you invite him along for the rest of the day, he will be there.
This isn’t something that just happens; it is a habit we form,
and the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, will help us.
As we go through our day, we pause, we ask Jesus to help;
we call on him when frustrated or under temptation, and he is there.
So to be his disciple, we must give him time.
Finally, to be a disciple is to be taught.
Remember, the main way the first disciples learned from Jesus
was by being with him.
They prayed with him; they read or listened to Scripture with him;
they listened to his words. And they saw what he did,
particularly in caring for people in their needs.
If you want to learn from Jesus, read Scripture, yes;
and seek out other good materials.
But you will also learn when you reach beyond yourself
and seek Christ in others.
Jesus calls you to be his disciple.
It’s not easy; it’s simply the best thing there is.