Growing in Discipleship
I noticed that I write about discipleship often in my blogs. This subject has become an important part of my faith journey, and as followers of Christ, we’re all called to be His disciples. You might think that the only disciples lived 2000 years ago and encountered Jesus face-to-face, but we can still be, and we should be, His disciples today.
I always knew about the disciples from Mass and Catholic school. I knew that the first disciples were 12 men who followed Jesus and evangelized after His Ascension. In college, however, I understood and appreciated the concept of discipleship. When I met the FOCUS missionaries, they taught me about discipleship, invited me into it, and prepared me to make disciples of my own. Growing in discipleship had its difficulties, but they were all worth it. Now, I think discipleship is one of the most beautiful gifts in the faith, and I love sharing about it.
What is a disciple?
Disciple comes from the Latin word discere meaning to learn. Back in Jesus’ time, young Jewish boys would go to school and study the Torah. If a young boy was very apt and passed his tests in school, he would be invited to discipleship. A Pharisee would say to the boy “follow me,” and he would follow the Pharisee everywhere and do everything that the Pharisee does to learn from him and be like him. They even had a saying that went, “May you be covered in the dust of your discipler,” meaning that they would follow their disciplers so closely that they would catch the dust that flung off of their discipler’s sandals!
Jesus invited the first disciples to follow Him in a similar way. When He met Andrew, Peter, James, and John, He invited them to follow Him. From that point on, they went wherever Jesus went. They did what He did, learned from Him, and became like Him.
Discipleship is how we follow Jesus in order to learn more about Him and become like Him. Although we can’t physically follow Jesus around in the same way that the first disciples did, in His goodness, we can still be with Him.
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How to be Jesus’ disciples
One way that we can be with Jesus is through the gift of the Eucharist. Because Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist, we can encounter Him when we go to Mass and Eucharistic Adoration. In Adoration, we can pray, talk with Him, and simply be with Jesus. When we receive the Eucharist at Mass, we receive Jesus’ Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, and come into communion with Him.
Another way that we can follow and be with Jesus is through prayer. I love to think of prayer as spending time with Jesus. When we pray, we don’t just ask for things or check things off our list. Prayer isn’t all about praying for a certain amount of time, reading a specific number of chapters, or saying the right things. Time that we spend praying is time that we get to know Jesus. When we pray, we open our hearts to Jesus and grow closer to His most Sacred Heart.
When going to Mass, praying Lectio Divina, or studying scripture, pay attention to the passages where Jesus is with His disciples. I listen carefully to passages that begin with “Jesus said to His disciples,” because I am His disciple and He’s speaking to me. As followers of Christ, we’re His disciples, so His words to His disciples 2000 years ago still apply to us today.
Finally, an important part of discipleship is to make disciples. During the parable of the vine and the branches, Jesus says “By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become My disciples” (John 15:8). Naturally, when we follow Jesus and become like Him, we’ll share His love with those around us. Then, our brothers and sisters will come to know Him through us. When we share the Gospel and help our neighbors to know and love Jesus, this not only fulfills God’s will, but it also glorifies Him.
Jesus stresses the importance of making disciples again before His Ascension. When He gives the Great Commission, He says, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). Whether that be our friends, our students, or our children, Jesus desires for us to make His presence known to everyone around us. He calls us to be instruments of His love, share the Gospel, invite those whom we encounter to encounter Him.
Perfectly Reflecting Him
The more time that we spend with Jesus, the more we become like Him. Like how we reflect the friends who we spend the most time with, we come to reflect Jesus when we grow closer to Him. Jesus desires us to be like Him and His Father, and He encourages us to “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). Through discipleship, we strive to be like Him. The most beautiful thing about discipleship is that it’s for everyone! Through discipleship, Jesus gives us a way to grow in holiness and become His faithful followers and close friends.
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