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Discipleship 2019

Each year since the General Synod in 2014, the Polish National Catholic Church has focused its attention on a particular aspect of our Christian Catholic faith.  The theme of this year is our “Discipleship” as a point of focus for the next 12 months.  We begin this year by taking a close look at the word itself and seeing exactly what this concept says to us.

“Discipleship” is our action of being a disciple of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  And we must remember that this is a conscious choice each and every day, not an accident of history.  While we might have been baptized a long time ago when our parents, our godparents or our guardians brought us to the Church and had the local parish pastor perform the rites of Baptism for us, this action alone does not make us living disciples. It is a beginning, but it is not the end of our discipleship.  In fact, it is really only the very first step.

When we think about what a disciple really is, we turn our attention to the disciples of Jesus Christ as presented to us in Holy Scripture.  It is during this time of year, within these first few Sundays of Ordinary Time, that we focus on the call of Jesus to His first disciples, His first followers.  Jesus had been performing a number of miracles within the area of the Sea of Galilee and certainly many, many people got to know of His mighty deeds.  It was following this that Jesus approached two sets of brothers, Andrew and Peter, as well as James and John.  To each of these He called out, “Follow Me.”  If we look only at the short passage of these scenes in the Gospel, it would seem that Jesus didn’t really explain Himself.  Jesus didn’t explain to them, “Follow Me and I will teach you all sorts of things about the kingdom of God,” or “Follow Me and you will be able to perform mighty acts of God as I do.”  All of this would come later, for now Jesus just said, “Follow Me.”

Now this is not to say that these men knew nothing of Jesus.  As is found in the pages of Scripture, Jesus was going around the area, preaching repentance and performing miracles.  All in the local area, including those who would be the first disciples, were beginning to know what Jesus was about.  But it was these sets of brothers who were the recipients of that first call.  And they answered with a resounding “yes.”  Well not really.  Scripture doesn’t tell us if they said anything.  What it does tell us is that they abandoned everything, got up and began to follow Jesus, not in the mental way we sometimes think of, but rather in a very physical way.  They certainly gave a resounding “yes,” not with words, but with their lives.

This actually was quite a normal thing for a teacher within this society.  A teacher or rabbi would gather around himself a group of individuals who would live life entirely as the teacher did.  It was not like a school as we know it, where the student shows up in the morning and spends a few hours learning from the teacher and then goes home at the end of the day.  It was total immersion in the life of the teacher.  The disciples eat with the teacher, live with the teacher, follow the teacher everywhere he went, and slept in the same places that the teacher did.  This school was not only for a few hours a day, but was total immersion in the life of the teacher, 24/7.

It is important for us to keep these things in mind when we are considering our own place as disciples of Jesus Christ.  Many, if not most of us, have done the school model in learning the ways of our Christian Catholic faith, which usually takes place at our parish churches.  At around the age of 8 we spent a year or so in classes, learning the lessons of our First Holy Communion Catechism, at the end of which we received the Holy Eucharist for the first time.  Then a few years later we spend a year or two in classes learning our Confirmation Catechism at the end of which we received the Sacrament of Confirmation.  It is oftentimes right here that our formal religious education ends.  One observation that I have made about this is that only in regards to religion do we think that we know all there is to know when we are 14 or 15 years old.

Of course this is a little unfair; more and more parishes are beginning to offer School of Christian Living classes for young members after Confirmation and also for older adults.  We also continue to attend worship on Sundays, and through the hearing of Scripture and receiving the Sacrament of the Word of God through homilies, we also continue to expand our understanding of our Christian Catholic faith.

But again here I wonder if we are not framing the situation in the wrong way.  The way presented here is that there are finite and discrete points in time where there is something to learn.  Rather, maybe we should look to the model of the disciples of Jesus and their discipleship given at the beginning of the article.  As we have learned a little within our First Holy Communion Catechism classes and also hopefully through our family experiences of the faith as well, we have come to hear a little about what Jesus is doing within our world and within our Church.  But again, just like the first disciples after they began to learn a little, Jesus is calling out to us, “Follow Me.”  I’m not sure that we are all ready to hear it, but trust me, Jesus is calling, “Follow Me.”

And He’s not calling us just to another hour of time, to another discrete point where we can learn something or do something.  Rather, He is calling us, through these discrete moments, to enter into the disciple relationship that the first disciples had with Him.  He is calling us to full immersion in His life, full living in His way, 24/7.

Yes, there will still be moments when we gather together for the worship of Almighty God within our parish churches. We will gather on Sundays and Holy Days to commemorate the great mysteries and events of our faith and join together within the worshiping community to express our faith.  Yes, there will be moments when we perform acts of mercy and loving kindness when we help those who are in need or who are suffering.  But these will not be our faith and our discipleship, but rather they will be the results of living the life of a disciple. 

Through discipleship we are being called to something much deeper.  Not only will we go to church on Sundays, but we will be immersed in the worship of God as we pray each day for those around us, those we love and those we have difficulty with, and even those we may never meet.  We will take up spiritual practices, like spending time with Scripture so that we may be immersed in the Word of God and come to more fully connect with the Master Who we follow.  We will be ones who give generously at all times.  It is a giving that will start with the support of our local parishes, our diocese and our whole church, and will extend from there as well.  We will give of ourselves in acts of loving kindness and mercy.  We will give others a kind word and a helping hand, not because of anything that they might do for us in the future, but rather just because, as followers of Jesus, that’s what He would do. 

We will stand strong in our faith and knowing that we, as Christians, are responsible in some ways for one another.  We will help others along the way of life with fraternal correction and help, through prayer and action, in following Jesus closer and closer.  We will make sure that those within our families, our loved ones and especially our children, will know the love of Jesus Christ through our words and actions.  We will not limit this love for only a few but rather we will extend this love to as many as we possibly can.

This is the way of the disciple.  It is not just a few discrete actions of attending church a few times a year or even every week.  It is a life lived in total dedication to Jesus Christ and in total immersion in His life.  Yes, it’s attendance at the worship of God, but it’s also so much more as well.

Does it seem like a challenge?  Does it seem like a lot to ask?  Maybe so.  But it is the call that has been heard down through the centuries.  It is the call that countless others have answered, these being the ones we call saints.  We certainly know that they weren’t perfect.  But perfection wasn’t the call.  Jesus didn’t call after those first brothers and say, “Be perfect.”  He said, “Follow Me.”  And follow Him they did.

Jesus calls to us still today.  Let’s leave behind the selfish desires of the heart that will gain us very little and instead follow the way of Jesus.  Through the love we profess and express, through the actions of love and kindness we will show, we will grow closer and closer to the Lord Who loves us, and gave all for us upon the Cross.

This is the way of discipleship.  Will we follow this road perfectly?  Of course not.  We shouldn’t expect that we will, because even the apostles couldn’t.  But we will get to work at the side of the Master, the side of our Lord, Jesus Christ, and by joining our lives to His, we will come to know His mercy and His love which extends to life everlasting.

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1006 Pittston Avenue, Scranton, PA 18505
Phone: (570) 346-9131
Website: http://www.pncc.org
Email: info@pncc.org