Twenty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time - Being Missionary Disciples

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Being missionary disciples

Twenty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

If you were asked: what does it mean for you to be a Catholic? How would you answer?

There are a number of replies we could make:
• To be member of the Catholic Church
• To go to Mass and receive the Sacraments
• To believe in God and Jesus Christ
• To follow the teachings of the Church
And so on

All of these are true. However, would you have described yourself as a disciple of Jesus Christ? Would this have been a notion that sprang firstly to your mind? This is a description of being a Catholic favoured by Pope Francis. In fact he likes to think of Catholics as “missionary disciples”, a term he used in his first encyclical.

I would like to consider the notion of discipleship today.

Discipleship is a key concept in the New Testament. It is a word used often by the New Testament writers.
• From the very beginnings Jesus called certain ones to be his disciples - we think of Peter, James and John mending their nets - and they literally “left everything and followed him”, accompanying him as he travelled around.
• Others attached themselves to him, eg. Mary Magdalen whom Jesus converted from a life of sin.
• We are told at one point he sent out 70 of his disciples in pairs – missionary disciples.

Being a disciple captures the relationship of those who responded to his teaching. They became his disciples. These people he instructed and formed as his disciples. We notice how Jesus, after speaking with the crowds sometimes took the disciples off by themselves for more particular instruction. These disciples placed themselves under his direction, and, in time as we have seen, he sent them out in pairs to preach and heal as he did. They were being prepared to continue his work. They were not only passive followers, but were to become those who would take his message to the world.

We might be tempted to see such disciples as reflected now in priests and religious - those who devote their entire lives to the service of Christ and is mission. And this is certainly true.

However, it is evident that Jesus sought through his preaching to effect such a change in people’s understanding and life that they embraced a life related fundamentally to following his teaching and way of life. His preaching began, and continued to hold at its heart, the call to “repent and believe that the Kingdom of God is close at hand”. Jesus called forth a fundamental conversion of life whereby one’s basic orientation was not around self or material things, but around God and things of the spirit. Along with this then went a certain moral change: a re-ordering of priorities.

Once a person embraced a new way of living inspired by Jesus Christ, then they naturally looked to him for direction and inspiration. They would seriously seek to place themselves and their lives under his guidance and direction. The first thing a disciple would do would be to listen to the teaching of the Master with an open mind and heart.

At the heart of our Catholic faith is Jesus Christ. He is the centre of our Mass.
• The Eucharistic Prayer focuses on the significance of his death and resurrection, as we recall the events of the Last Supper.
• In Holy Communion we come individually to receive him truly present – the Body of Christ.

Our relationship with him forms the foundation to the way in which we live. We seek to imitate him. We listen attentively to his teaching. We seek strength and encouragement from our appreciation of his loving kindness towards us he is the good shepherd.

Last week in the Gospel we read of that pivotal moment when Jesus asked his disciples who they believe him to be. Peter clearly pronounced his faith: “You are the Christ the Son of the Living God”.

Today’s Gospel continues on from last Sunday’s. Jesus is at pains to clarify to them what his fate is to be. Peter won’t have a bar of it – “This must not happen to you”. Jesus’ rebuke is stinging – “Get behind me Satan!”

Then he goes on to say that none can be his disciple unless they renounce themselves and take up their cross and follow him. He further challenges them that if they are trying to look after themselves or if they are intent on building up their lives in this world, then they are not being his disciples.

He offers some very challenging paradoxes: anyone who loses his life for my sake with find it; what will a man gain is he wins the whole world and ruins his life? Here we are shown a truth with which we can identify. It is the paradox of life that we are to give ourselves in order to receive. We are to lay down our lives in order to take them up. It is in the end the way in which we live out the paschal mystery – the dying and rising.

We Catholics as disciples are invited into this mystery which characterised the mission of Christ, and is the path we embrace in following him. We sense its deep and life-giving truth.

The last sentence is greatly consoling: “For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of his Father with his angels and, when he does, he will reward each one according to his behaviour”.

Saturday, 30 August 2014