What is Good Discipleship in Jesus?

09-12-2018Pastoral ReflectionsFr. Brian F. Manning

The overarching theme of the readings this weekend is “what is good discipleship in Jesus.” The Suffering Servant is the image which launches our scriptural readings. This servant is a symbol for Israel. The servant’s faith never wavered despite the blows, insults and sufferings that were imposed. The servant knew that his faith had to do with the future. His faith had a most noble and just purpose, and life and energy were not to be wasted.

The Letter of James, our second reading, had more to say about discipleship. He tells us plainly that is not enough to talk about our beliefs and faith. He tells us that when we find our neighbors hungry and without enough clothing, it is one thing to wish they had more; but it is quite another to take action on the wish. To be sure, it is important to pray and have faith that God will hear our prayers, but we often forget God answers other’s prayers through us. If we do not act and do something then God’s holy work cannot happen.

In our gospel passage from Mark, we hear how Jesus describes a disciple. Jesus begins by asking his disciples who people said he was. The answers are: John the Baptist, Elijah or some other prophet. This was because as faithful Jews they believed that a prophet would come back to prepare the way for the Messiah. And then dramatically it became crystal clear to Peter that Jesus was the Messiah. Yet before Peter could act, Jesus told him not to tell anyone else. It is interpreted that Jesus had to be sure that Peter fully understood what that meant before he went about telling people.

Bear in mind that Peter still believed that the Messiah was someone who would rise to great power, conquer all of their enemies and also rebuild Jerusalem. He hoped that all the Jews throughout the world would once again be reunited in their new city. In contrast, when Jesus explained his messiahship in the context of suffering and death, Peter could not believe or understand. Peter pushed back on the words of Jesus so much that Jesus said Satan was behind Peter’s actions. Immediately following the stern reprimand that Our Lord gave Peter, Jesus began to explain discipleship. He said a disciple needed to be ready to give up the pleasures of life and say “yes” to God. A disciple had to be ready to face what Jesus faced.

From the Gospel passages, we conclude that Jesus knew the cross was inevitable. We also learn that Jesus did wonder if the disciples were getting “it.” We realize that the final test of their understanding came in the question of Jesus, “Who do you say that I am?” With much later hindsight, we know that God has been revealed to us through Jesus. Through Jesus we come to a deep understanding of God’s great and unconditional love. Through the life, words and actions of Jesus we learn how to return that love to God. God’s love shines through us, the disciples. We can share that love verbally and in prayer, but mostly importantly we must show that love in concrete actions.

Remember: when it is difficult to share God’s love, we are reminded to pick up the cross of Jesus and die in him. And then act and do. Merely to profess our faith verbally is not sufficient. In many ways it is not faith at all. True faith and discipleship in Jesus means that we do something to care for our brothers and sisters.

Cemetery Garden of Remembrance: Very soon we will have completed all the necessary work on the Columbarium area for the interment of cremains. It is our hope that this beautiful area will allow people to find a spiritual and appropriate place to inter the cremains of the their loved ones. May the souls of faithfully departed rest in peace. Amen

Father Brian