The Call to Discipleship – Part 3 of 3

4. A Shepherd’s Heart

There was a time not too long ago when the expectations upon the laity were very minimal. Some would even joke that the laity are expected to pray, pay and obey. This is hardly a flattering way to look upon the exalted calling of a disciple of Jesus, especially when you consider the Church of the first Century. Today the doors are wide open up for lay persons to share their witness and spiritual gifts inside and outside our Church. How should a man of God bring compassion to the people he meets? I suggest with a shepherd’s heart. I chose the word shepherd because of the beautiful imagery of Psalm 23, and the words of Jesus found in John 10:1-18. The heart of a shepherd is moved to serve the sheep in whatever way is needed: rest, food and water, guidance, correction, encouragement and protection. Thus the men of the Christian community, guardians of the flock, should pray for a heart like that of Jesus.

It is easy for us to become overwhelmed with the tremendous spiritual needs we find in the Church today. We cannot deny obvious facts: church attendance is down and churches are consolidating; priests are getting older with few candidates in seminaries; vowed religious are very scarce; deficit church budgets are common; the sexual abuse scandals of the clergy have hurt the faith of God’s people, etc. In the midst of all this we hopeful Christians continue to light a candle rather than curse the darkness. When Blessed Teresa of Calcutta was asked by a reporter if she was discouraged that she could not help all the people on the streets of Calcutta she said, “No. I just love them one at a time.” Good advice for all of us.

Disciples are expected to give loving service to the Church and society around them according to model of stewardship: time, treasure and talent. In one season of a person’s life there may be more to give than at another time. But one should always be careful not to ignore family commitments. It is good to pray for wisdom to know the call of God in our lives, and courage to fulfill our promises. There are several key passages in the New Testament which indicate the quality of community life and service that existed in the early Church before the persecutions began. I think these are normative for all times, and worthy of reflection. (Acts 2:42-47; Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12 and 13; Ephesians 4:1-16.)

Closing

We are privileged to be called disciples of Jesus Christ. Each of us is unique and we have different talents and functions to fulfill in the Church. Cardinal John Henry Newman put it this way: “God has created me to do him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which he has not committed to another. I have my mission; I have a part in a great work; I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons.” It is humbling to realize that God relies on us to bring his kingdom to earth. The frame of mind we should have is captured nicely in the prophet Micah 6:8: “This is what the Lord requires of you: to do what is right, to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.”

St. Joseph is the patron saint for the Guardian of the Redeemer Catholic Men’s Fellowship. Though the Gospels portray him as a silent witness, his actions speak volumes about his faith and dependence upon God for what he was asked to do as a husband and foster father. May St. Joseph help us to be better men, better disciples of Jesus, who bring God’s love to a troubled world, one person at a time.

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Recommended Reading:

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich, The Cost of Discipleship
Cassaude, Jean-Pierre, Abandonment to Divine Providence
Ciszek, Walter, He Leadeth Me and With God in Russia (autobiography)
Dulles, Cardinal Avery, Models of the Church
Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life
Green, Thomas, When the Well Runs Dry and Darkness in the Marketplace
Kelley, Bennet, Spiritual Direction According to St. Paul of the Cross
Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle

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Many thanks to Fr Michael Salvagna CP for challenging us with this teaching!

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