For some of us old-timers in the golfing world, “Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf” has been and remains our golfing bible. And the fundamentals? The grip, the stance and position, the first part of the swing, the second part of the swing. Get these fundamentals down and good scoring is almost assured.
What are the fundamentals of the Christian life of discipleship? The Bible states them time and time again. We need but know them and put them into practice. Today’s readings articulate again the basics of the Christian life.
Mercy and compassion! The “who is my neighbor” question is a no brainer. Every person we meet, especially those who are in serious need, is no stranger to the follower of Jesus. Indeed, we are to see Christ in that person and respond with due concern. The parable of the good Samaritan is so clear as to need no commentary. The only requirement here is to emulate the mercy and compassion of the Samaritan. The only tragedy in this story (and in life) is to pass by our needy neighbor.
Listening! Heeding God’s voice is a fundamental on the Christian journey. Some might argue that God’s message is too high (sky) or too vast (sea). Don’t buy it. God’s word and law are already in our hearts. We need but enter into silence for the listening. And the message will always be the same: Be loving! Be compassionate! Be forgiving!
Too easily we drop the fundamental of listening because of its imposing demands. If we hear God’s call we must be willing to forego our own will. We will have to participate in a life of service, a life of stewardship. Let us never forget the consequences of this obedience: peace and joy will flood our hearts.
A third fundamental: Jesus makes possible the life of grace. St. Paul understood the fundamentals of discipleship. At the center is the person of Jesus — the image of God, the firstborn of all creation, the mediator of creation, the reconciler of humankind and God. St. Paul experienced the cross, that self-giving love of Jesus that was at the center of St. Paul’s theology. To the extent we put on the mind and heart of Jesus, we will understand what our true Christian vocation is.
Hogan’s five lessons work, even for post-modern golfers. The fundamentals of Christianity — mercy, compassion, love, JESUS — work. Understanding and living them leads to fullness of life.
Questions for reflection
1. What are the fundamentals of your Christian life?
2. Why are the basics of life so easily forgotten or not practiced?
3. What lessons of discipleship do you share with others?
Bishop Morneau is the auxiliary bishop of the Green Bay Diocese and pastor of Resurrection Parish in Allouez.