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Being a Disciple of Christ

We call ourselves disciples of Christ but what does this really mean?

Let’s start with asking what it means to call ourselves “Christian.” The term is generally applied to anyone who is baptized and/or says they believe in Christ. Yes, a Christian is one who believes in Christ. It is rooted in the Sacrament of Baptism. We must pay attention to the fact that “believe” is a verb. That requires action. To be a Christian is to strive to live as Jesus calls us to live.

This leads us to being a “disciple.” To be a Christian disciple is more than just saying we believe. The word “disciple” refers to being a student. It requires learning. Are you learning what it means to follow Jesus?

The most typical way we learn about Jesus is as children in Sunday morning catechism classes. This generally starts in Kindergarten or first-grade and ends anywhere from eighth through twelve-grade, typically on the younger side of that.

That’s unfortunate because that’s when we really start to learn. As young children, we learn facts, numbers, and rules. It is as we grow older that we begin to find real meaning and application in what we learn.

Classroom learning ends but does real learning ever stop? Life is the real place of learning. We need to have Jesus part of this so that we might always live as He teaches.

To be a “Christian disciple” is to be a lifelong learner. There is a saying expressed in various forms, “if you aren’t growing, you are dying.” Learning is part of growing. If we aren’t learning, we become stagnant. We become complacent and we may cease to thrive.

Many crowds came to see Jesus. They heard what He had say but not all became his disciples. They listened to him talk for a while, perhaps even witnessed a miracle, but then went back to their old lives without being changed by what they experienced with Jesus.

Are you changed by what you have learned from Jesus?

What do you still need Jesus’ help with?

We learn throughout our lives. We are influenced and shaped by what we experience. We can also shape the world by the way we live. Here the question we need to ask ourselves is does the world shape our faith or do we rely on our faith to shape the world? If the former, we “learn” the ways of the world and expect our faith to conform to it. The world says abortion is okay so we think our faith should too. The world says same-sex relationships are okay we we think our faith should too.

That is not what our faith teaches us. As disciples, we need to learn what God teaches us, live it, and use our faith to shape the world.

This might not be easy. Jesus told us we must take up our cross and follow him.

We might face rejection for our faith. We would not be the first. Jesus himself was rejected. Many prophets in the Old Testament were rejected and persecuted. Today (June 30th) is the Memorial of the First Roman Martyrs. Many since then have been martyred. Even today people are martyred for being disciples of Jesus.

Today the word “martyr” means someone who is killed for their faith. The root of the word “martyr” lies in one who gives testimony, who witnesses. Do you witness to your faith in Jesus, inspired by the example of the martyrs?

We need to listen to Jesus to be lifelong learners. This doesn’t have to be classroom learning. It is rooted in God’s Word. Do you pay attention when the Bible is read at Mass? Do you listen to the homily? It is important for us to know God’s Word and have it broken open (see Luke 24:13-35, especially 24:27). Do you read the Bible on your own? Do you participate in any learning opportunities for adults offered by your parish? Do you look at good Catholic websites? Do you read about about faith? A place to start reading might be the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults. All of these things are part of being a disciple of Jesus.

As I conclude, I feel like I might be preaching to the choir because, if you are reading this, you are trying to learn more about our faith. I hope this encourages you in your efforts and perhaps gives you something to share with others to help them to do the same.

Peace,

Fr. Jeff

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