Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” He replied, “What do you wish me to do for you?” They answered him, “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.” (Mark 10:35-37)
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. (Luke 14:26-27)
An argument arose among the disciples about which of them was the greatest. Jesus realized the intention of their hearts and took a child and placed it by his side and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. For the one who is least among all of you is the one who is the greatest. (Luke 9:46-48)
At that time the disciple approached Jesus and said, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.” (Matthew 18:1-5)
The previous article began with this question: “How would you answer, if Jesus were to ask you the same question he asked his disciples, ‘Who do you say that I am?’” In this article, let’s consider how you would answer if Jesus were to ask you this question: “What does it mean to be my disciple?” But before you answer, let’s take a look at what his first disciples were like. The disciples were people with many weaknesses. Some craved respect and esteem from others. Some sought power and glory (Mark 10:37). Some presumed exclusive rights to Jesus’ power. In other words, he chose his disciples from people just like you and me. After three years of being taught and directed and ministered to by Jesus—more than a thousand days of close, personal contact with him—they still didn’t always understand Jesus’ mission and what he was asking of them. “Show us the Father” (John 14:8). “What does he mean, ‘in a little while’?” (16:17). And, ultimately, “Who is the greatest?” (Luke 9:46 and Matthew 18:1).
Jesus made it plain to his disciples, and to us: He doesn’t want his followers to think of themselves as the powerful, respected few or an elite assembly. Rather, they are supposed to be like little children (Matthew 18:3). No expectations of big rewards, no desire for greatness – he wants disciples who are trusting him and loving him and his people. He wants his followers to be open and teachable. He wants them to accept the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives and in other people.
Nowhere in the Scriptures above does Jesus mention being flawless. He doesn’t hold up a mistake-free life as the goal for his disciples. And how could he? The Gospels are full of many instances where the disciples’ shortcomings are on full display: “Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?” they asked (Mark 4:41), even though they had seen healing and deliverance time and again. Even when Jesus told them that he was the Messiah and that he had to die, Peter’s immediate response was that Jesus must be mistaken (Matthew 16:16-23)!
The disciples needed to learn. They needed to trust. They needed to live simply and contentedly, leaning on the One who is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving. It took time: years with Jesus — and even more years after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost were required for them to be formed fully as Jesus’ disciples.
Becoming a disciple doesn’t happen overnight. It happens as we spend time deepening our relationship with the Lord at Mass and in our prayer. It happens as we ask, seek, and knock! So ask the Holy Spirit to teach you. Seek the Father’s love to transform you. Knock at the gates of heaven for the grace to answer the call to be Jesus’ disciple and live a life pleasing to him.
“Lord Jesus, I want to say yes to the call to be your disciple. Give me the grace I need to take up my cross and follow you. Teach me what it means to be like a little child in my relationship with my heavenly Father. Give me the wisdom and understanding I need to trust in you and turn to you for the strength to be your disciple.”
Many thanks to The Word Among Us for allowing me to adapt meditations in their monthly devotional magazine. Used with permission.
Questions for Reflection/Discussion by Catholic Men
- Take some time to meditate and reflect on the Scriptures at the beginning of the article. What do you think God is trying to reveal to you through them?
- The article begins by asking us to consider how we would answer if Jesus were to ask us this question: “What does it mean to be my disciple?” What would be your answer?
- Why do you think that the disciples, after three years of being taught and directed and ministered to by Jesus—more than a thousand days of close, personal contact with him—still didn’t always understand Jesus’ mission and what he was asking of them?
- How well do your thoughts, words, and actions convey to others that you are a disciple What steps can you take to do even better?
- The article ends with these words: “Becoming a disciple doesn’t happen overnight. It happens as we spend time deepening our relationship with the Lord at Mass and in our prayer. It happens as we ask, seek, and knock! So ask the Holy Spirit to teach you. Seek the Father’s love to transform you. Knock at the gates of heaven for the grace to answer the call to be Jesus’ disciple and live a life pleasing to him.” Which of these steps are you willing to take to allow the Lord to form you more fully into his disciple? What do you expect to happen as you take these steps?
- Take some time now to pray and ask the Lord for the grace you need so to “answer the call to be Jesus’ disciple and live a life pleasing to him.” Use the prayer at the end of the article as the starting point.
Maurice Blumberg is the Director of Partner Relations for The Word Among Us Partners, a ministry of The Word Among Us to the Military, Prisoners, and women with crisis pregnancies or who have had abortions. Maurice was also the founding Executive Director of the National Fellowship of Catholic Men, for which he is currently a Trustee. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.