People of every parish in our diocese were invited to complete the Disciplemaker Index Survey this year. The survey allowed us to reflect on and assess how seriously we take the discipleship to which we are called. This might have been the first time we have ever taken the time or the effort to think about being a disciple, really. So what? What difference does recognizing and accepting that I am a disciple of Jesus Christ make for me, for my faith, for my life.
Most of us have been Catholic from birth. Our families took us to be baptized as infants. We may have had religious formation (catechism) as children. Probably at some point in our youth, willingly or reluctantly or with little thought, we took the step of Confirmation. As adults we regard ourselves as Catholics with various levels of commitment and certainly often with many questions. But have we ever given much thought to seeing ourselves as disciples and if so,… so what? For, that baptism we received so many years ago was in fact a call into discipleship.
The gospels reveal much about the relationship Jesus had with his disciples and this is the model for our own discipleship. What do we see there? First of all we see that Jesus called his disciples where they were, in the midst of their world. Simon and Andrew were fishing on the Sea of Galilee when they were called and they left to follow Jesus. (Matt.4:18-20) Jesus called James and John when they were doing maintenance on their nets and boats. (Matt.4:21-22) Luke tells us of the call of the disciple Levi who was at work as a tax collector for the Roman authorities when he was called by Jesus. (Luke 5:27-28; Matt.9:9 refers Matthew) Discipleship begins and is lived in the world, where we live and work and play.
These Gospel accounts are brief and look as if there is a sudden and total conversion experience. However the process is probably more gradual that it appears. Initially most come to it after a period of hearing about Jesus. Then they may have met him as part of the crowds that gathered around him. They listened and watched him for a time. Then at some point their interest grows and they perceive a need for more, a call to step up and follow as disciples.
This following as disciples is an entry in a close and personal relationship with Jesus. They would discover that the call is to become more like this Jesus they are following. Being a disciple is certainly not about a body of beliefs and doctrines. It is a very personal relationship that grows between them and their master, Jesus. Eventually they would come to see that they are being given the mission that Jesus has – to bring the reign of God to more fulfilment in our world. This mission means that they will gradually become more like Jesus themselves and that in their own words and actions will reveal the love and compassion, the peace and justice, the healing and forgiveness of God to all of our world. This is the full meaning of evangelization, sharing the Gospel, the good news.
The Disciplemaker Index Survey is aimed at raising this so what question for us. Many of the questions that we responded to were asking us how engaged or committed we are to living and sharing our faith with others. They are the questions that had to be responded to in action by the very first disciples. In fact they are the questions to which in some form or other disciples have had to respond down through the ages. Now they are our questions. If we are disciples of Jesus, so what?