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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

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Christ’s disciples follow his example, his spirit and his teachings

Christ’s disciples follow his example, his spirit and his teachings

The word disciple is used 269 times in the New Testament. The word Christian is found only three times, the first time in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 11:26).

The New Testament is a book about disciples, by disciples, and for disciples of Jesus Christ. For several decades the Christian churches have not made discipleship a condition for being a Christian.

The church should require an individual to be a disciple in order to become a Christian. Our churches today do not require following Christ in his example, spirit, and teachings as a condition for membership. Discipleship is seen as optional.

We are not real followers of Christ if we just sit passively in church on Sunday and then spend the rest of the week going to our work, or school, or even caring for a family, and nothing else. No one can be a Christian “on the sidelines.” Every person has a Christian and moral responsibility to make the world more Christlike.

Jesus calls all of us to do ordinary things in a Christlike manner. Everyone must give account of how they carried out this mission before the judgment seat of God.

Most of the days of Jesus’ life and those of his followers were little different from ours, engaged in routine, showing love in the ordinary ways. Even John the Baptist had difficulty recognizing the Messiah in his day because of the ordinariness of Jesus’ ministry. Our response to the Lord will often go unnoticed because of its humble, simple style.

Some of us may have a hard time with such routines. We would rather experience religious spectacles, or breathe taking conversions, than recognize God’s grace at work in the ordinary. We may feel the need for the spectacular to strengthen our faith.

This spiritual hype may be nothing else than a desire of our culture that preaches the benefits of the extraordinary over the ordinary. The popularity of reality TV with its bizarre episodes is an example of people wanting the abnormal instead of the normal. We need to remember the scriptural advice, “by patient endurance you will save yourself.” Some people are tempted to make their motto, “by peak experiences you will save yourself.”

St. John of the Cross was one of the most spiritual people ever to have walked the path of discipleship.

One day, St. John of the Cross was alone in his room praying when he experienced a vision of Mary. At the same moment, he heard a beggar rattling at his door for alms. He pulled himself away from the vision to tend to the beggar’s needs. When he returned, the vision returned, saying that at the very moment he had heard the door rattle on its hinges, his soul had hung in perilous balance. Had he not gone to the beggar’s aid, she could never have appeared to him again.

Jesus’ invitation to his disciples and to us today is still, “Come and experience life with me.”

Being a disciple is not a life filled with miracles, or outstanding successes, or fantastic conversions experienced by a whole group of people. Discipleship means living one day at a time as though Jesus were near: near in time, and near in place. We should witness to our world by our motives, our speech, our behavior that we follow Christ.

An old Roman coin pictures an ox between an altar and a plow. Underneath are the words: “Prepared for either,” sacrifice or service.

Jesus thought of himself as a servant of God. True followers of Jesus should think of themselves as a servant of Christ, and no more, ready for sacrifice or service. If we were all true disciples of Jesus, we could change our world.