The word disciple in the Greek New Testament appears 27 times. The word means to be a “pupil” or a “student”. Jesus Christ is the headmaster and the disciple is His student. The goal of a student is to learn well enough from their teacher that in time they become like him; someone capable of teaching others. Jesus expects His disciples to become like Him, a teacher of God’s love and mercy: “… and whoever gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.” (Mat 10:42 RSV).
To be a teacher carries great responsibility. And before we can disciple others in the faith we must be active disciples of Jesus ourselves. A disciple of Jesus Christ must learn the faith and understand the cost and lifestyle involved in being a Christian if their aim is to be like Jesus. “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after Me, cannot be My disciple“. (Luke 14:27 RSV)
Today Jesus calls men and women to discipleship, just like He did when He call the Twelve and many others. He calls to us “come and follow Me“. (Matt 4:19). His calling involves embracing a life of holiness. Holiness here means intentionally separating oneself from secular ideals and standards in order to freely embrace and live under God’s Providence.
Jesus gives us a beautiful example of this, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O men of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, `What shall we eat?’ or `What shall we drink?’ or `What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day“. (Mat 6:25 RSV)
St. Paul compares the life of a disciple to that of an athlete. (1 Cor 9:24-25). An athlete who seriously competes must be involved in rigorous and focused training. They must discipline their mind, body and soul towards the goal of winning the game. In a similar manner to be a successful disciple of Jesus Christ we must be focused on growing deeply in our understanding of the theology and the application of the Christian faith. This will allow us to be effective teachers of the Gospel. We are reminded in Acts 2:42 the method a person must be involved in their whole life if they are to graduate from being a student and enter into the world of discipleship. Here’s the method: “And the disciples devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread (the Holy Eucharist) and to prayer.” (Act 2:42 RSV)
At the font when we were baptized God called our soul to “come and follow Me.” His voices continues to echo from the center of our conscience. Let us become disciples and teachers of the faith! Amen