Lesson in Discipleship

Scripture     Luke 9: 18-24


                 “Who do the crowds say that I am?”

               They answered…

           “But who do you say that I am?”

              Peter answered, “The Christ of God.”

                   Then he said to them all, “If anyone wants to become my follower,

                   let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

                   For whoever wants to save his life will lose it,

                    and whoever loses their life for my sake will save it.”




But, who do you say that I am?”  This question is the building block of our faith and the answer we give is the mark of our discipleship. It would seem that Jesus is carefully guiding his beloved apostles to consider more deeply within their own hearts - beyond what "the others say”, beyond the popular conclusions, speculations, opinions - consider your own faith response. Now, at this critical juncture in their following him, they must individually and personally search their own beings to respond to the ultimate question. Peter speaks for all the disciples when he responds, “You are the Christ of God.”  Peter’s confession was a milestone because now that the words were spoken, and everyone heard the true identity of Jesus named, he could begin to develop their understanding of just what that meant and how they would be called to active participation in the Mission with him.


“If anyone wishes to become my follower, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”  These solemn and rather sobering words teach us that when God calls a person, he bids that person ‘come and die’.  The two essential conditions of discipleship with Jesus are very simply and directly: self-denial and the cross. Like these early disciples, we too are often confused and like to question Jesus about his words. But this time, it is as if they are so awed and bewildered by the instructing words, they don’t even know what to ask. They remain silent and pondering.


Faced with such a summons, we instinctively hesitate, hold back in reluctance and possibly even natural repugnance before such a radical following.  Yet the summoning Person so captivates us with the power of his unconditional love for us that we find ourselves being-in-discipleship. We actually receive our discipleship. A disciple is chosen and to be chosen is to be loved. To be a disciple is to be loved so completely that we are existentially incapable of being other than totally given over to God.


However, responding to the totality of giving which is involved, is a long and arduous process, demanding of us ever deeper faith and more openness to the Spirit.  We don’t become disciples all at once! It takes a long time. We have only to recall how Peter and the others grew in discipleship and how patient Jesus was with their stumbling efforts and their slowly maturing insights. From Peter’s beautiful confession of faith recorded in today’s Gospel: “You are the Christ of God,”  there would be in the days ahead further questioning. “Are you still without perception?”  “Have I been with you all this time and you still don’t know Me?”



Growth in discipleship takes a long time – but it should be sought after, prayed for, and struggled for. Discipleship becomes more and more freeing as we go along. Jesus ‘seduces’ us only so far. The options become more and more clear. The temptations become more and more subtle. Jesus will ask again and again:

            “Who do you say that I am?”

            "What difference do I make in your life?"

            "What does it mean for you to be my disciple?"

            “What about you, do you want to go away too?”



Each decision to be identified with Jesus becomes more costly. It may eventually cost them – and us- our lives. Truly, we enter by the narrow gate. The way of discipleship is by the narrow road and we must travel unencumbered, dis-possessed, and unburdened, for on this road there is room only for self-denial and the cross.  These alone are the support staffs on our continuing faith journey. “My yoke is easy and My burden light.”  And this is true for all those pure of heart who are looking for God alone, not seeking themselves in God, not looking for the consolations of God.  For this selfishness disguised is incompatible and entirely contrary to Love. Rather, in love with God, one is looking for complete freedom from the false, egoic self. One prays for courage to embrace and accept what most resembles and resonates with the WAY Jesus proclaimed. This becomes more precious than enjoyment of lesser things.  The mature disciple rejoices, like Paul, that “he/she is counted worthy to share in the sufferings of Christ.”  Accepting ‘the daily cross’ is most often accepting the consequences of belonging to our wounded humanity. Eventually, LOVE triumphs and the victory is won when the heart of compassion is opened from deep within us and LOVE – God’s LOVE - flows freely through us to all others, even the enemies and persecutors and detractors.



God, working within the disciple demands the sacrifice of all that we are. God works a complete regression of our ‘egos’ and fosters the full emergence of our ‘true selves’.  God very rightly, wisely and lovingly denies us the satisfactions, the gratifications and the consolations that we are so often seeking.  He purges us of this affliction – what St. John of the Cross calls – “our spiritual sweet tooth.”  He weans us off this childishness, this immaturity, which inclines toward the sensible delights and sets us off on the rougher way of the cross ... only to be raised to glory and transforming beauty in the very likeness of God!



The disciple, being fashioned by God, at this point naturally feels aversion for the bitterness of self-denial. But with time, through the various struggles, trials and aridities, God cures us of our spiritual gluttony…only so that we may taste a spiritual joy.  And it is this beautiful pure joy, not pleasure, that we were created for.  This joy no one can take from us.  No pain, no suffering, persecution or affliction can ever touch this highest joy – except to bring the soul to an increase in the purity of its love by a diminishment of selfishness.  It is Jesus’ promise fulfilled: “My joy be in you, so that your joy may be complete.”



Discipleship is a work of a lifetime – a work of intimate love. The Latin root of ‘disciple’ means ‘to grasp’, ‘to take hold of’ and a disciple of Christ has been grasped in love. Like breathing in and breathing out, one denies oneself and one chooses Christ; one renounces oneself and one chooses Christ.  Every pulse beat can be the measure of God’s growing possession of our being.  It is into this great love that we surrender our whole being. We plunge into the depths … that are really a soaring to the heights.  And Christ’s own affirmation of the one who makes this choice is: “Whosoever loses his life for My sake, will save it.” The maturing disciple welcomes the invitational summons: ‘Come… and die ’.


Carrying Grace      Thanks for 'grasping me' in your love!  




#2 Betty Mellon 2010-06-24 16:50
I was exceedingly moved as I reflected on the Living Word and Reflection for this week. As I pondered on the written wisdom, the words speak profondly to me: "Accepting 'the daily cross' is most often accepting the consequences of belonging to our wounded humanity...LOVE triumphs...the heart of compassion is opened from deep within us and LOVE -- GOD's LOVE flows freely through us to all others...." Quiet tears of joy flow softly as I embrace the wisdom shared.
#1 arletteh 2010-06-21 19:13
"To be chosen is to be loved."That really grounds the difficult "invitation" to follow,to take up one's daily cross(of one's wounded humanity),where there is room only for self-denial.It must be a willing taking up of the cross,in order to follow, feeling "unburdened." How beautiful to have come that far!"This is true for all the pure in heart who look for God alone."The cross becomes a joy, a sharing in the sufferings of Christ." This becomes a greater joy than the enjoyment of lesser pleasures.One is sustained by the Presence of our Christ!---the above are what spoke to me most.Thank you, rosemary!

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