“If you would be my disciple…”
If you would be my disciple. Lord Jesus, Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, asks us: Do you want to be My disciples?
Anybody? Show of hands.
Ok. Why? Why would we want to be this man’s disciples?
Because He is God, the Almighty Creator revealing Himself to us. So, in fact, we owe Him our discipleship. Giving Him anything less than our discipleship means ingratitude, irreligion, dunderheaded self-centeredness.
But there’s more. Christ does not ask us to adhere to Him as disciples without offering beautiful and compelling reasons.
For one, He Himself possesses the happiness, the blessedness, the peace that we seek.
He insists that we cultivate discipline—after all, that is what a disciple must have. But He asks no more than what He Himself practices. And His practice of discipline—His renunciation of Himself; His will, His comfort, His pleasure—the discipline Christ practiced during His pilgrim life gave Him the kind of serenity and vigor that we want more than anything.
Also, His demands come with promises. His discipline, which kept Him faithful to the truth, no matter what, led Him to a cruel and ignominious death. But He conquered. He triumphed, and He reaped heavenly glory.
He promises the same to us: Follow Me, and you will be blessed in heaven. Give me the obedience of your discipline, and you will live in a divine kingdom forever.
So raising our hands to accept Christ’s discipline does not make us fools.
What, then, does being a disciple of the Son of God require? “Take up your cross.”
Not sure how carefully everyone has been following everything that has happened in Iraq. Thousands upon thousands of our brother- and sister-Christians have been forced from their homes by cruel barbarians. Many have been killed or enslaved; the rest live now as refugees. Pope Francis sent a Cardinal from Rome to Iraq to visit the refugees. And, of course, the Iraqi Catholics have their own Archbishop, with the title of Patriarch.
About a week ago, these prelates issued a statement that contains what strikes me as an endlessly compelling sentence.
They addressed their statement to the leaders of the nations of the world. They explained the urgent, grave needs of the Christian refugees. And then they wrote: We implore you, leaders of world, especially those of you “who take your moral responsibilities seriously,” to do something about this.
Those of you who take your moral duties seriously. Now, of course we want to help the Iraqi Christians, we personally want to help them. In our parish cluster, we take up a collection for them this weekend.
But I bring up this phrase referring to moral seriousness for another reason, having to do with our own discipleship. The prelates in Iraq addressed the nations ‘who take their moral responsibilities seriously.’ We hope that we, as a nation, fall into that category. A nation of moral seriousness. But what we want to be as a nation, each of us has to be as an individual.
The disciple of Christ stands out as the one who takes his or her moral responsibilities seriously. We take up the cross of being morally serious people in a world that seems to have altogether forgotten how to be morally serious.
Now, this doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy ourselves. Like the poor joker who tried to take the famous ‘ice-bucket challenge’ in front of his house. He lifted up his big bucket over his head, and managed to knock the gutter off the gable of his roof and then clock himself in the head with his bucket.
No. Morally serious people can goof around and have fun—provided that everything is wholesome and good. When everything is wholesome and good, when everything conforms to God’s beautiful laws, then we can laugh with the simple joy of children.
But when anything starts to veer towards selfishness, or self-destruction—when God, and God’s poor, and the defenseless, and the weak—when these compelling realities go out-of-focus, then a disciple of Christ becomes serious as a heart attack. A morally serious person becomes a wall of stone, immovable and terrifying, when God’s laws come into question.
No, I will not flout God. No, I will not waste on my own selfishness the good things that actually belong to others, especially the poor. No, I will not smile as I watch people indulge themselves, or wrong the innocent, or lie. No.
Taking our moral duties seriously requires careful meditation, reflection. Time runs short now. More on this subject next week.