“If any one comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple…. [E]veryone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26, 27, 33)
Jesus then said to those Jews who believed in him, “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)
I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)
“By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.” (John 15:8)
When Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side. A scribe approached and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus answered him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.” Another of (his) disciples said to him, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.” But Jesus answered him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead.” He got into a boat and his disciples followed him. (Matthew 8:18-23)
“Do you believe you are called to be a disciple of Christ?” I think many of us might answer this question something like this, “Of course, all of us as Catholic men are called to be disciples of Christ, However, before we personalize this answer, we should look a what it means to be a disciple. To do this, let’s first look at how Jesus defined some of the characteristics of a disciple:
- A disciple must love Jesus even more than his immediate family. (Luke 14:26)
- A disciple requires self-denial, complete dedication, willing obedience, and total commitment – even unto death (Luke 14:27)
- A disciple surrenders everything for Jesus. (Luke 14:33)
- A disciple remains true to Jesus’ words and teachings. (John 8:31)
- A disciple loves others as Jesus has loved him. (John 13:34-35)
The Catechism defines a disciple this way: “The disciple of Christ must not only keep the faith and live on it, but also profess it, confidently bear witness to it, and spread it” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1816).
Do you believe you are personally called to be a disciple of Christ? Perhaps, after reading the above definitions of a disciple, you are not so sure. That’s OK. It just means you have come to realize that you cannot be a disciple on your own strength. This did not appear to be the case for the two men who came to Jesus as told in Matthew 8:18-23. Perhaps, that is why he challenged these would-be disciples so strongly. He wanted them to take a closer look at the job description before they signed up!
It wasn’t that they were insincere. The scribe told Jesus eagerly, “I will follow you wherever you go” (Matthew 8:19). But Jesus must have sensed he didn’t understand what that meant. He might have followed him across the lake-but would he follow him to Jerusalem? Would he follow him to the cross? The other young man was already a disciple, and all he wanted to do was bury his father. So why didn’t Jesus accept him immediately? He was not against this man honoring his family, but he wanted to see where his heart was.
As the example of these two men show us, discipleship depends on commitment. Though it doesn’t always call us to travel to the ends of the earth or sever every family tie, it does require something more difficult: surrendering our will to the Lord. We may have the best of intentions and be very sincere, but we must also be willing to give up our strong attachments to this world’s values and comforts. We can’t finish our journey with Jesus if we keep one foot on the shore in case things get rough!
Being a disciple of Christ requires that we die to ourselves and embrace the cross. When we do this, we find a new home in him. The sacrifices we make for him are nothing compared to the rewards we receive as his disciples. No matter what storms are raging around us, we do have a place to lay our heads. And it’s so much better than any comfort this world can offer us! Just as Jesus did during his time on earth, when we are troubled or tired we can call on God our Father. He will always refresh us and strengthen us. He will always empower us, by the power of his Spirit, to be Jesus’ disciples.
“Jesus, I want to be your disciple, no matter what the cost. I believe this is your call for my life, and I say yes to this call. Your grace is sufficient for me to be faithful to this call. Father, your love is more than enough to sustain me. Thank you for giving me your peace, joy, and rest. In you alone will I find fullness of life!”
Maurice Blumberg is Director of the National Fellowship of Catholic Men Center.
[Many thanks to The Word Among Us (http://www.wau.org/) for allowing us to adapt material from daily meditations in their monthly devotional magazine. Used with permission.]
Questions for Reflection/Discussion by Catholic Men
- What was your reaction to Jesus’ words on what it takes to be his disciple? What about the definition of disciple from the Catechism?
- Why do you think Jesus challenged the two men so strongly in the story in Matthew 8:18-23?
- Do you believe you have been called to be a disciple of Christ? Why or why not? If the answer is yes, how are you doing?
- What steps can you take individually, or with the support of other men, to be a more faithful disciple of Jesus Christ?
- If you are in a men’s group, take some time at the end of your meeting to pray for one another to be the disciples Christ has called you to be. Use the prayer at the end of the article as the starting point.