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  • Writer's pictureThe Hermit of Antipolo

Discipleship and Mission (The Way Forward in Christ Part 221)

March 7, 2024

Today’s readings:

Jeremiah 7:23-28

Psalm 95:1-2,6-9

Luke 11:14-23

 

     Jesus drove out a demon from a mute person, healing him of his infirmity (Lk 11:14a). People were amazed, but there were also the doubters, some even saying he drove out the demon by the power of the devil (Lk 11:14b-15). Today, after two millennia, many people, including Catholics, still do not know Jesus as Savior and Lord. What then is of utmost importance is for people to become true disciples of Jesus and to do the mission that he entrusts to his people. It is to live Christ and to share Christ.


     And so Jesus says, “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” (Lk 11:23). To be a Christian is to be actively for Jesus. This is unlike many Catholics who carry the name Christian but who do not know Jesus and who do not carry on with the work of Jesus. A Christian cannot just be nominal or cultural. If so, he is no Christian at all, except in name. A Christian cannot straddle the fence, being of Christ but also, and perhaps even more so, of the world. He cannot love and serve God and mammon.


     A Christian either is with Jesus or against him. Not to be actively with Jesus is to in effect be against him. One might not overtly be against Jesus, and may even go through some of the motions of the Christian life, but he must not only be a good person, he must be a disciple. That means he follows in the footsteps of Jesus, is formed by Jesus, commits his life to Jesus, lives a life of strict obedience to Jesus.


     Further, a disciple is one who is sent out, an apostle. He does the work of evangelization, goes on mission, proclaims Jesus to one and all. Jesus came to gather the lost sheep. His disciples carry on with this work, which is all about salvation, which Jesus brought through the cross and desires for all to attain. Jesus goes after the one lost sheep out of the 100 in the sheepfold. Today it is the 99 that are lost. There is much work to be done. If we do not gather the lost sheep, then we scatter, that is, we fail to act such that the sheep remain scattered and lost, easy prey to the evil one.

 

     How do we grow in discipleship? It starts with listening to Jesus. God says through the prophet Jeremiah, “Listen to my voice; that I will be your God and you shall be my people.” (Jer 7:23a). The psalmist says, “For he is our God, we are the people he shepherds, the sheep in his hands. Oh, that today you would hear his voice.” (Ps 95:7).


     How do we listen to Jesus? We pray. And when we pray, we do not just babble on, in effect making God listen to us, but rather, we have times of silence and reflection, trying to listen to the faint voice of the Spirit. Second, we read the scriptures, especially but not exclusively the gospels. We reflect on what we read. We allow the Spirit of Jesus to explain verses to us. We try to internalize what we learn. Third, we are aware of the many other times Jesus will speak to us—in the Eucharistic celebration, through preachers and spiritual books, in formation courses, in fellowship with brethren, even through day-to-day circumstances of our lives as well as current happenings in the world and in the Church. We read the signs of the times. We are constantly conscious of God and remain in communion with him. Thus we pray without ceasing.


     Jesus is always there for us. He listens to us. He speaks to us, directly or through other persons and circumstances. This was God’s way with Israel. “From the day that your ancestors left the land of Egypt even to this day, I kept on sending all my servants the prophets to you.” (Jer 7:25). Israel had the prophets. We today have so much more, including and especially the Bible. We also have servant leaders, Church ministers, community inputs, Internet resources.


     But are we listening? Or do we give enough time to listen? Or worse, have we stopped listening, being engrossed in the attractions of the world? Israel failed in this. “But they did not listen to me, nor did they pay attention. They walked in the stubbornness of their evil hearts and turned their backs, not their faces, to me.” (Jer 7:24). It is interesting that they turned their backs but not their faces to God. This is akin today to Christians still praying, looking to Jesus, going to church, but not truly listening and so end up not following him. When they pray, they talk but do not listen. They have an endless list of petitions, but do not fervently seek God’s will for them. They may say, Your will be done, but end up doing their own thing, according to their own desires. “Yet they have not listened to me nor have they paid attention; they have stiffened their necks and done worse than their ancestors.” (Jer 7:26).


     I pray that what Jeremiah said about Israel will not be the case with you, my brethren in Christ. He said, “When you speak all these words to them, they will not listen to you either.” (Jer 7:27a).

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