Last summer the parish hosted in-home meetings during which Father Dennis spoke of discipleship. Since then Father’s thoughts have evolved into a vision for the parish: [That] every parishioner will make an intentional commitment to be a disciple of Jesus Christ rooted in a personal relationship with Him and committed to sharing his/her story. This vision has become the basis for many of Father’s homilies. Therefore, while Father Dennis is enjoying his vacation, it may be of value to revisit his discipleship comments of last year:
“There is a difference between a disciple and a follower. A follower is one who follows the opinions or teachings of the one whom he/she serves. On the other hand, a disciple is one who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines or teachings of another. At the end of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus gives the following instruction, ‘…Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations. Baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Teach them to carry out everything I have commanded you.’ A disciple is one who takes on the responsibility of carrying out the mission of the leader—Jesus Christ.
The noun disciple used in the gospels comes from the Greek word, mathetes (pronounced math-a-TAYS) meaning learner or pupil. As a verb, the word is translated as learn by inquiry. In Jesus’ day students or followers sought out the rabbi or teacher. Jesus, however, is the one who seeks out the disciple unlike the rabbis of his time. Therefore, discipleship is by invitation only. You and I by virtue of our Baptism have been invited by Jesus to be his disciple. We are commanded to make more disciple by spreading the teachings of Jesus…’Go make disciples of all the nations.’
The question for us is: What does being a disciple mean me? The Catechism of the Catholic Church offers one answer: ‘The transmission of the Christian faith consists primarily in proclaiming Jesus Christ in order to lead others to faith in Him.’ Discipleship for us is to proclaim Jesus in order to lead others to faith in Him. Like the disciples of the early Church we are to invite people to enter into the joy of our communion with Christ. It is the Spirit who has been given to us that teaches and guides us in this work.
I like the meaning of discipleship as I read it in Deuteronomy, ‘It is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out.’ The Constitution of the Church, Chapter 4 #38 simply states, ‘Christians must be to the world what the soul is to the body. That discipleship at its best—integrated and organic to who we are and all that we do.”
Father Dennis Dirkx