Discipleship (Part 1)
We are Christians – followers of Jesus, the Christ.
So what does Jesus mean to me? Is He my battery charger or petrol pump to fill up on Sundays or whenever I need? Who is a Disciple really? Is there not too much of God nowadays – so stifling and restrictive? Too much do’s and don’ts?
Or is He “Life” itself – to make me come alive and fully so – to my total personality?
Come let us explore the Holy Scriptures and find out about “I”; about God that “I” truly believe in – as a Disciple? Surprisingly, I may know about Him for years but do I Know Him?
Who is a Disciple? One who searches his life for truth, for God for Life?
And Where? And How to search? Where else but from the Master (through His Word. The Bible), His inspiration – in and through the “Whole” Church, the Liturgy, the Sacraments, the Holy Eucharist, Prayer, listening with the Heart (Kwanahaleb) – (Contemplation/Meditation) : Through the Guidance of the Holy Spirit, in action – in all these above. And above all, sitting at the feel of the Master (like Mary Magdelene who “Chose the Better Part”) – learning from Him – in Union with Him – through Surrender. Follow Him in all ways trying to know Him fully, living Him and With Him, making a journey into His Heart. The Disciple tries to experience the answers to their questions (articulated or not). In short, total surrender to the Master, to be moulded by Him like a potter would shape the clay in his hands, namely, a living dynamic interaction on all levels of personality.
There are various models of Discipleship in the Gospel from John 1 : 35-51.
John the Baptist gives testimony about the Master Jesus: 1:27
His basic self-knowledge. A disciple should know who he is and who he is not. John is aware of his nothingness. Are we aware that we are nothing before Jesus? How often are we self-righteous? How often are we snobbish? How often we wear a mask of holiness and look down on people who are not so God-fearing? How often we are unaware of hypocrisy in our life! John the Baptist is somebody because of the Master.
Disciple is the one who experiences the Master (1:29-24) : A disciple shares the vision of the Master by living it in his own life. A disciple who comes to experience the Master shares the knowledge of the Master. He shares his knowledge with others through testimony to bring others to the Master. (Many of you do this beautifully in your life. I know of a couple who experienced the Master, took the trouble of going to an unbeliever who had lost all hope in his life due to his sickness. They shared their personal experience of how they encountered God. This experience touched him, he attended a retreat and was healed). An authentic experience of the Master moves people. A disciple brings others to Jesus after experiencing and knowing Him in their own lives.
Testimony through the act of self-emptying or kenosis (1:35-37) : A disciple who experiences the Master does not keep anything for himself. He will go to the extent of giving himself for the Master. John the Baptist gave his two disciples as an act of self-emptying. In the process of kenosis, one becomes enriched. Are we able to decrease and allow Christ to increase in us? Many of us are given so many spiritual gifts and material gifts; are we able to give up in favour of our Master?
Disciple shows promptness in following Jesus (1:37) : The testimony of John moved the disciple and they followed Him immediately. (Couple who bore witness… the crippled boy decided to follow Jesus.) The disciple went after Him. To follow implies to go after Jesus. This is a technical term in the Bible. Promptness in response. When the knowledge of the Master is available one has to respond to it. Knowledge about the Master becomes an invitation to follow. We should examine our encounter with the Master. Day after day our knowledge about the Master is increasing in us; are we deepening our discipleship? Are we generous with our response? There is no end to discipleship but it has to be constantly deepened.
A disciple is a seeker (1:38) : “What do you seek?” A disciple is a seeker of Truth, a seeker of God. Only such a person will find Jesus who is the Truth. A man whose inability to answer the question leaves him paralyzed (chapter 5). It is question meant to probe their deepest longing. It is also an invitation to them to express their needs. Jesus’ first question is not that of a judge but that of a host. His call is a grace, an invitation, a gift.
At any time one can refuse the gift, and indeed John points out that some did. In the prologue we are told that “His own did not accept Him”, and later in chapter 6, after the story of the multiplication of bread, John says, “Many no more walked with Him”. The gift can be refused. The call He extends to them is therefore essentially non-violent, although the hearing of it may involve one in great deal of pain. suffering and death. (To be continued)
POWER TO SOLVE PERSONAL PROBLEMS (Concluded)
An effective technique in problem solving is the simple device of conceiving of God as a partner. Christianity teaches that in all difficulties, problems and circumstances of this life God is close by. We can talk to Him, lean upon Him, get help from Him, and have the benefit of His interest, support and help. Practically many have experienced the reality of this faith.
To solve your problems, apart from believing, one must practice the idea of presence of the Holy Spirit. Practice believing that God is as real and actual as your wife or your business partner or your closest friend. Practice talking matters over with Him, believe that he hears and gives thought to your problem. Believe that He impresses upon your mind the proper ideas and insights necessary to solve your problems. Believe these solutions are error-free and you will be guided to actions according to truth which results in right outcomes. Believe that our Heavenly Father is so near that you can talk to Him at any moment, and His Spirit is so close that He can give you comfort, peace and direction. All you have to do is ask and trust that He will act.
In addition to the above mentioned methods to solve your problems, there is still another tremendous technique – that of practicing faith attitudes. Has it ever occurred to you as to what the BIBLE is trying to tell us? It’s trying to tell us that if we have faith and really have it than we can overcome all difficulties, meet every situation, rise above every defeat and solve all the perplexing problems of our lives.
Throughout the Bible the truth is emphasized again and again that, “If you have faith as big as a mustard seed, you can say to this hill, go from here to there! And it will go. You could do anything!” (Matthew 17:20). The Bible means this absolutely, completely and literally. It isn’t an illusion, or a fantasy, but the absolute truth – “Faith, even as a grain of mustard seed”, will solve your problems, if you believe it and practice it. “ According to your faith, be it unto you”. (Matthew 9-29)
For example, let me tell you another story of a couple Maurice and Mary Ann Flint. Maurice Flint was failing and failing badly. Not only was he failing at his job, but as a person as well. He was filled with fear and resentment and was one of the most negative persons you could ever encounter.
In short, he had simply messed up his life. On his wife’s request Maurice went along with her to attend the Mass one Sunday morning. The topic of the Sermon was FAITH. And the Priest was elaborating on the Bible passage “If you have faith as big as a mustard seed……you could do anything (Matthew 17:20). Maurice really took to the faith idea. It gripped him as nothing ever had. His reactions were weak, of course, for his will power was disorganized.
That night he went into the kitchen where his wife was washing dishes. He said, “The faith idea is comparatively easy on Sunday in Church, but I can’t hold it. It fades, I was thinking that if I could carry a mustard seed in my pocket, I could feel it when I began to weaken and that would help me to have faith”. He then asked his wife, “Do we have any of those mustard seeds as they are mentioned in the Bible? She laughed and said, “I have some right here in a pickle jar”. She took one out and gave it to him. He looked at it in the palm of his hand and said wonderingly, “Is that all the faith I need – a tiny grain of mustard seed?”. He held it for a while and then put it in his pocket. But the seed was so small that he lost it, he went back to the pickle jar and took out another one, only to lose it again. Suddenly an idea popped up in his brain, why couldn’t he put the grain of mustard seed in a plastic ball? It would be easier to carry it around.
He consulted an expert who said it could not be done for the reason that it had never been done, which of course was no reason at all.
Maurice had enough ‘faith’ by this time to believe that if he had faith “even as a grain of mustard seed” he could put a mustard seen in a plastic sphere. He went to work and after a few weeks finally succeeded. He made several pieces of costume jewellery – necklaces, bow pin, key chains, bracelets and showed them to a priest. They were beautiful and on each gleamed the translucent sphere with mustard seed within. Attached to it was a card titled “MUSTARD SEED REMEMBRANCE”. With the help of his friends and associates, Maurice took out an advertisement in the newspapers saying – “symbol of faith – a genuine mustard seed enclosed in sparkling glass makes a bracelet with real meaning”. Along with the scripture passage, “If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed ….nothing shall be impossible to you (Matthew 17:20). These articles sold like hot cakes.
Mr. and Mrs. Flint have a factory in a Mid Western City (USA) producing Mustard Seed Remembrances. Curious, isn’t it – a failure goes to church and hears a text out of the Bible and creates a great business. Perhaps you had better listen more intently to the reading of the Bible and the sermon the next time you go to Church; perhaps, you too will get an idea that will rebuild not only your life but your business as well.