Many people say that they are Christians or believe in God, but what does that mean? What does it mean for you and me to be disciples of Christ Jesus? I believe these two questions are some of the hardest to ask for they require both a personal and communal understanding of who we truly are. As Catholics, we are reminded that we are not simply individual believers, only worrying about own selves and salvation, for we also have a communal identity. We do not spend eternal life by ourselves; therefore, we do not only worry about our own salvation and ignore everyone else because we believe in the communion of saints. We are called to be the Church, for Christ gave His life for each and every one of us, gathering and uniting us together as His Mystical Body. We share this life of faith together as individuals and as the community of believers, knowing who we are personally and communally, helping each other to walk toward Him with mercy and unity of faith.
Even though the Lord personally called each and every one of us, He also gathered us together as His disciples — like the original group. While many have heard Him called; unfortunately, not all have followed Him. Many nowadays, as in the past, choose to sit back, still waiting for Him to meet their conditions or expectations before they truly answer and follow Him. They remain as spectators and bystanders. While some have answered the call to varying degrees, many have not given themselves completely to the cooperative, salvific, and redemptive mission of Christ yet.
To be honest, I am guilty of this at times, because to truly preach the Gospel at all times is tiring! It gets discouraging at times, especially in having to deal with people’s different personalities or having to face many hurts, manipulations, threats, oppositions, betrayals, obstacles, and resistances along the way. At times, the evils done among the children of God and people of faith can be some of the worst, and that can make one loses hope. Sometimes, the temptation to throw in the towel or saying to the Lord to choose someone else is so very real! However, I do not know about you… but as soon as I feel like I am tired and wanted to let go, He always gently called me back. For some providential reason, I could not let go and I am still here — kicking and screaming at times though!
To be honest, what else can one do when we really love Him and He called us? No matter how much kicking and screaming there might be, we just cannot walk away when the good Lord lovingly calls us. Love is complicated! It is hard! Perhaps that is why we can only embrace our trials and hardships, challenges and obstacles, with perseverance and humility for love.
I truly believe that the Christ Jesus does not call the equipped, He simply equips the ones He called. Nonetheless, this takes time, because real growth is measured over the course of our journey and continually enriching us with His grace. With humility, we begin to recognize that we never stop growing and learning what it means to follow the Teacher and Master! Discipleship is that very personal and communal journey of continual growth. Where we are at today is totally different than where we were in the past as we learn and adapt to life’s challenges. We become in tune, flexible, and creative in letting what He taught us in prayer be enlivened and shared through our words and actions, life and deeds.
Furthermore, outside of the typical human and pastoral obstacles, those who are disciples Christ often face divisions caused by different “camps” or ideologies.
- The first one is power. We often hear questions like: Who do you know? What parish do you have or belong to? What title or abbreviation after your name? What do I need to do to be in more power? Hence, we cheapened our true mission by worrying about what is only good for us.
- The second is of suspicion: What is he or she trying to do? How come they are here in this position? What do they want from me? Thus, we tend to judge others because we cannot open up our hearts to trust that the Lord is at work in His disciples, even the imperfect ones!
- The last one is division. We hear things like: Oh, you are a Novus Ordo priest or Mass attendee or you are a Tridentine (Latin) Mass priest or devotee! You are not traditional enough or that you are not opened to change enough. You went to this seminary or belong to that order and not that one! You did not speak out on this issue or you were silent on that one. You are not holy enough or that you think you are better than us!
In all these different things, we remain vocal or worried but not silent in prayer or open to God‘s working in and through us or others. Sadly, those are just the three most popular downfalls that we often see in a parochial or ecclesiastical setting, and there are many more like these that rupture and divide the Church right within her own children who are called disciples of Christ.
St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians (1:10-17) stated that we belong to no one but Christ! If we think that we need to be in this or that camp, follow this or that particular set of ideologies, know this or that person, we have done nothing but to pick and choose what is best for us. If that is the case, we simply remain our own judge, looking down on others but stuck in our own pitiful self-righteousness. The Lord Jesus Christ is never truly in our heart or preached through our genuine way of life! Perhaps our problem is that we have too many people wanting to be masters and teachers but not enough disciples and followers. We want to take Christ‘s place as to put ourselves on a pedestal to judge others, to make ourselves feel good, to point fingers at the wrongs of others, but never have enough humility to lay down our everything to follow Him.
So what if we do not like the pope, a bishop, priest, deacon, catechist, parish staff, volunteer, or parish member? Grow up and learn to live with others! Do not think that we are the only ones who have to live with this or that person because they have to live with us, too! Please… Let us not think that we are so high and mighty that no one, even the Lord cannot satisfy us. Perhaps we need to reflect and see that the reason why we are not happy with others is that we are unhappy about ourselves! Therefore, in all things, we have to be careful that we do not invalidate, create obstacles, and drive people away from the Church, especially Christ Jesus and His love for humanity shown on the Cross and at each and every Eucharist.
When the Lord chose His first disciples, He did not choose all the perfect, like-minded, gentle, nice, and educated people. He called misfits, lower-class, and people of different types of personalities. Those who were His disciples listened to His calling and followed Him. Even though they were imperfect, they chose to leave everything behind to be with the Teacher. Hence, in following Him, they learned how to put up and lived with each other. It was not easy! We saw them clashed with each other at times in the different Gospel accounts. Yet, He gently taught them, and His love changed them.
His willingness to give Himself up as expiation for our sins on the Cross, His faithful promise of the Resurrection and Ascension into heaven, His sending forth of the Paraclete, and His continual giving of Himself at the Eucharistic Table changed them and us! My brothers and sisters, the Lord Jesus Christ called us into one faith, one family, one Body, one Church. Therefore, we need to humbly learn how to love one another as He has loved us, else we will be the ones who are stopping His grace at work and pushing people away from the Church. May we take the time to get to know one another, choose to love and serve with our whole heart as the response to His calling and to our vocation as His disciples.