The Stages of Discipleship in Christ
Discipleship has become a household affair in our Christian faith today and we hear and see followers of Christ attending programmes tagged “Discipleship in Christ.” One wonders what could be the driving force for such programmes as the title suggest. On the other hand, today Jesus Christ has so many Christians and followers but very few disciples. This is so because it is possible to be a Christian and follower of Jesus without being a disciple. In the original order of things, you become a disciple first before following Jesus not the other way round. In Acts 11:26 “It was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians.” Since then the titles of Christian and follower have overshadowed the main title of disciple. I am also still wondering if we are really the disciples of JESUS CHRIST or put differently, who can be a disciple of JESUS CHRIST.
The term disciple is from the Latin discipulus meaning a pupil or learner under a master. Our readings challenge us to embrace genuine Christian discipleship and our discipleship in Christ is a lifetime project. This lifetime affair requires the help of God. So, the first reading states that it is through the wisdom of God and the gifts of the Holy Spirit that a disciple on earth can do the will of God.
We hear Jesus saying to us in Luke’s gospel that “If any man comes to me without hating his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, yes and his own life too, he cannot be my disciple. Anyone who does not carry his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26-27). This sounds shocking to our ears. How could Jesus the Prince of peace and one who spoke so much about love, compassion and forgiveness now be talking about hating and especially hating those closest to us and even ourselves?
We need to keep in mind a certain fact. The Hebrew language does not have comparatives — it is not possible in Hebrew, for example, to speak of loving something “more” or “less” than another thing. It is only possible to speak of loving or hating. The phrase, “If anyone follows me and does not hate father and mother” should be understood in this way: “If anyone follows me, without preferring me to father and mother.”
Friends in Christ, reading and listening to different religious leaders and founders, have you ever heard them speak this way like Jesus? For instance, Moses could say to the Israelites that they must love the Torah more than their father and mother. Mohammed could say to his adherents that they must love the Qu,ran more than their father and mother. But none of them or other religious leaders and founders could say you must love me more than your father and mother, brothers and sisters and even yourself before you can qualify to be my disciple. This is serious and the first reading says it will be possible only through the wisdom of God and the gift of discernment from the Holy Spirit.
Dear people of God, you may be wondering where Jesus must have gotten the audacity to challenge us to decide whether to be His disciples or not. There are many reasons. For instance, “Christ died for us while we were still sinners” (Rom. 5:8). Some religious leaders kill and force people to form their discipleship and followership. Secondly, Christ chooses His disciples and not disciples choosing Him: He says “You did not choose me, no, I chose you; and I commissioned you to go out and to bear fruit” (John 15:16).
Dear brothers and sisters, we need to celebrate Jesus Christ for His uniqueness. Because many leaders today especially in the Church are afraid of losing their followers, the “great crowds who accompany them.” So rather than challenge them, they feed them with empty slogans which matches their worst instincts. Many of us too have compromised the Christian faith and we have become very nice persons as against our consciences and souls. If we remain in this state, I tell you, we cannot be the disciples of Jesus Christ.
So, Jesus challenges us to identify the stage of discipleship that we are now. According to Ronald Rolheiser, a very sound spiritual writer, there are three stages of discipleship in Christ. Essential discipleship, mature discipleship and radical discipleship. Essential discipleship is the struggle to get our lives together. Mature discipleship is the struggle to give our lives away. And radical discipleship is the struggle to give our deaths away. From the tone of Jesus, He speaks of radical discipleship. Radical discipleship is a stage of discipleship where like Jesus we give our lives and deaths as the greatest gifts to the world. This is never going to be easy. To attain radical discipleship, Jesus puts forward three requirements:
To prioritize – ensure the primacy of Jesus in your life. “Anyone who comes to me without hating father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, yes and his own life too, cannot be my disciple” (Lk 14:26). For sure, the preacher of love is not asking us to hate the very people whom we love so naturally. Rather, He wants us to have a prime place for God.
To be ready to die to yourself – carry your own cross: “No one who does not carry his cross and come after me can be my disciple” (Lk 14:27). Be ready to suffer. Be ready to die. The death implied in carrying the cross could also mean dying to oneself, dying to one’s own plans and shallow desires and to be focused on Jesus. This is a real challenge to people of our own times who follow Jesus with the belief that he will solve all their problems associated with the human condition. Jesus invites us today to seek not the consolation of God, but the God of consolation.
To make yourself vulnerable – renounce your possessions: “Whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Lk 14:33). A call to make ourselves vulnerable before God. Is this possible?
TODAY IS THE BIRTHDAY OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY! THE FIRST DISCIPLE OF OUR LORD AND SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST. WE THANK GOD FOR THE GIFT OF OUR MOTHER MARY! PLEASE PRAYERFULLY HONOUR MAMA FOR HER BIRTHDAY BY PRAYING THE ROSARY, DISTRIBUTING THE ROSARY AND ADORNING HER GROTTOES WITH FLOWERS. MOTHER INTERCEDE FOR US TO BE GOOD AND COMMITTED DISCIPLES OF JESUS CHRIST. AMEN. HAPPY BIRTHDAY MAMA MARIA!