What does it mean for us to be disciples of the Lord Jesus?
This is the most important question in our lives. We see a great variety in the lifestyles and choices of those who are followers of the Lord Jesus; choices that are often incompatible with the choices made by others who also consider themselves disciples, as the recent elections demonstrated. So how do we determine what discipleship means, and what are its practical consequences for our lives?
As Catholics, the place to start is always the Word of God, as the Council Fathers taught: “Therefore, like the Christian religion itself, all the preaching of the Church must be nourished and regulated by Sacred Scripture.” (Dei Verbum, #21) . Unfortunately, the content of the Word of God does not seem to be enough to get everyone ‘on the same page.’ Thirty two thousand plus denominations makes that clear, not to mention the variety of what is believed even among Catholics.
As Catholics we are not in a position where it is just ‘me and Jesus.’ We believe that the Lord Jesus founded a Church and endowed that Church with the power of the Holy Spirit that He may continue to lead and guide her, especially through those He has established with the capacity to teach. It is that same Holy Spirit He has sent us Who calls us to respond to His friendship and Who teaches us what that friendship entails.
To that end, the Magisterium of the Church produced the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which Pope St. John Paul the Great described as “a sure norm for teaching the Faith.” (Fidei Depositum, #3). So we turn to the Catechism as a wonderful source for us to understand how we can take the content of the Word of God and use it in our lives to be ever more the disciples the Lord Jesus has called us to be—entering into that relationship that is His gift to us.
Being a disciple is not just about assimilating theology, it helps to answer how are we supposed to live, what are we supposed to do? And for that, we need a plan.
Enter the self-help section of any bookstore and you will be confronted with a wide variety of plans, plans for healing, for growth, etc., etc. Plans are very helpful for achieving specific goals. After training fighters for decades, I realized that putting together a comprehensive training plan would be useful. The plan should include achieving certain benchmarks in the major areas needed to be a good fighter, e.g. being strong, tough, enduring, expert, lean, and limber. To ignore any one of these would result in being less of a fighter; for example, if you’re strong, but you have no wind, you’re not going to make it in the ring. Or if you’re in great shape, but you don’t know any technique, you won’t know how to use your physical gifts effectively.
In a similar way, what it means to be and to become ever more completely a disciple of the Lord Jesus should have a plan. Because for the disciple too, there are specific components that, if ignored or neglected, very negatively impact our growth as disciples. The Scriptures illustrate this multicomponent approach to discipleship: “And they remained faithful to the teaching of the apostles, to the fellowship, to the Breaking of the Bread, and to prayer.” (Acts 2:42).
The key pastoral initiative that the Leadership Team is focusing on this year is to produce a comprehensive discipleship plan for the parishioners of Christ the King. The Diocese is actively encouraging this, and has, as part of the last Assembly, put forward a basic framework for the discipleship plan. Their plan includes Prayer, Study, Parish Involvement, and Service and Evangelization. Building on their plan, and with much prayer and consultation, especially among our own parishioners, we hope to come up with a plan that will serve all of us well. Your prayers for this will be much appreciated! — Fr. Ed