The Call to Discipleship – Part 1 of 3

On our retreat last month, Fr Michael Salvagna CP presented an excellent teaching on “The Call to Discipleship.”  He has graciously provided us with his notes so that we can share it with you here.  Enjoy!

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In his book, The Models of the Church, Cardinal Avery Dulles, SJ, describes five models of the Church: the Church as institution, sacrament, community, herald and servant. In a subsequent article he summarized all of these models under the general heading of disciple. The Church is a community of disciples under the headship of Jesus Christ. In every model of the Church, in every member from the oldest to the youngest, believers are called to be dedicated followers of Jesus.

Baptism makes us members of the Church of Jesus Christ. Most of us were born into the faith and so the decision to become a believer was made for us. As we matured we received the sacraments of reconciliation, Eucharist and confirmation by which our faith matured and we more actively chose to belong to Christ. The prophet Isaiah reminds us that God has chosen us, and quite literally we belong to him. “I have called you by name: you are mine.” (Is. 43:1) And yet there is a difference between being a member of the church and a disciple of Jesus. Some Christians are content to go to church when they are hatched, matched and dispatched. That is hardly what God had in mind. True followers of Jesus enter a school of discipleship from which they never graduate.

A disciple places himself/herself under the discipline of the master’s words and deeds. Jesus expects his followers to stay close to him, to pay attention to his words, and thus to be fruitful. (John 15:1-10) The twelve Apostles had the privilege of being in discipleship school with Jesus for about 3 years, and to a lesser degree the Blessed Mother and those who traveled with Jesus. ( Luke 8:1-3; Luke 10:1-2) Jesus was a teacher, friend, confidant, shepherd and healer. There was an intimacy with Jesus that served them well long after the resurrection, and we must seek that same intimacy with Jesus. The teaching authority of the Church also frames the beliefs and practices which endear us to God and to one another. We will consider four elements of discipleship which bond us to our Master. 

1. Personal Prayer

Prayer may be described as our lifeline to God, the foundation of our union with Jesus.  It is a personal relationship with God that has elements of adoration, contrition, thanksgiving and supplication (ACTS). Prayer is a continuous dialog with our Creator and redeemer which entails speaking and listening with our hearts. The intimacy that we develop through prayer allows us to hear the voice of the Shepherd more clearly. Always available to us, the Lord delights when his flock assembles in church for Eucharist and other devotions. Reciting the Liturgy of the Hours is a good method of praying along with the Church at different times of the day. The rosary and Stations of the Cross are other ways of staying connected to God through our Blessed Mother.

But I strongly encourage all to spend time in quiet meditation in the loving presence of God. That is listening at its best. If we are busy saying things to God, when do we listen? The prayer of quiet occurs when we slow down and rest in the comforting embrace of God. You may even imagine the Lord surrounding you by a glowing light. If you become distracted let your eyes fall upon holy objects until you focus again upon the God who loves you. A goal would be to spend an hour a day in public and private prayer devotions.

Reading the Bible and other devotional books, e.g. biographies of the saints, feed our minds and give us inspiration. St. Jerome said that ignorance of the Bible is ignorance of Jesus Christ. St. Paul wrote: “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:16) If you are not in the habit of reading the Bible regularly, I suggest you start with the Gospel of Luke, followed by the Acts of the Apostles. Read short sections and reflect upon their meaning and how they apply to your life. I would not advise reading the Bible cover to cover. You could keep a marker at an Old Testament reading, e.g. the Book of Psalms or Proverbs. But I suggest focusing on the gospels and letters of the New Testament. The Bible is our daily bread, not cake for special occasions.

to be continued…….

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