My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Recently in writing about the sexual abuse crisis in the church, I shared that strengthening our friendship with Jesus and growing in holiness will help us to overcome evil. That’s why over the past couple of years the diocese has offered training to help people grow in their relationship with Christ through our Discipleship Formation Seminars. Last month, as part of a year-long series on discipleship, I highlighted the first seminar called “Discover Jesus.” In this column, I want to focus on the second seminar called “Follow Jesus.”
Getting to know someone is the first step in any relationship, and with Christ this is no different. But in order to live as a disciple of Christ, we must commit to following Jesus. We see this distinction throughout the Gospels.
One example of the difference between discovering Jesus and following Jesus is the story of the “Rich Young Man” recorded in three of the four Gospels. In this story, the young man asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life, and in responding to the young man’s question, Jesus outlines the cost of discipleship. Upon hearing the cost, all three writers report that this young man “went away sad.” His sadness illustrates that while he had discovered Jesus, he was not willing to follow Jesus.
Following Jesus is more difficult because there is a cost. While we must weigh this cost, Jesus also reminds us of the benefits of following him. After the rich young man leaves sad, Jesus tells those that remain, “Everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more and will inherit eternal life” (Mt 19: 29).
The “Follow Jesus” seminar helps us to understand and accept the cost of discipleship. Our journey as a disciple begins in baptism, but simply being baptized does not make a person a disciple. The word disciple comes from the Greek word mathetes, meaning pupil/student of the master, so to be a disciple means we are willing to place ourselves before Jesus to learn from him. He is our leader and teacher and in all things we must follow him.
In this seminar, we present “The 10 Habits of a Disciple’s Life.” These habits help us to center our lives more fully on Jesus and follow him more closely. They are:
Relationship: Disciples seek a personal relationship with Jesus.
Prayer: Disciples pray every day.
Commitment: Disciples are committed to Jesus, his church and to the Kingdom.
Worship: Disciples regularly attend Mass to worship Jesus in the Eucharist.
Study: Disciples study sacred Scripture and other Christian writings regularly.
Openness: Disciples are open to the Holy Spirit and where the Lord is calling them.
Participation: Disciples participate in the community and the sacramental life of the church.
Service: Disciples serve others in the Name of Jesus Christ.
Share: Disciples share their personal gifts, time and money with the Lord and his church.
Evangelize: Disciples evangelize the world in their word and deeds.
Another important part of this seminar is taking time to recognize our own need for healing. We have all experienced pain in life, whether physical, emotional, mental or spiritual. Over time this pain can create a wall between us and God. In order to take the step to follow Jesus, we need to ask for God’s healing. During the seminar, we invite participants to pray with and for each other, asking for God’s healing in their lives. This beautiful experience of community offers a glimpse of what the church was intended to be.
I hope you will join me and so many others in our diocese by making the commitment to follow Jesus. As we celebrate Advent and prepare for Christmas, I encourage you to spend some time in prayer, listening to how God is inviting you to grow in the habits of discipleship. Invite God to heal those places of pain that are making it difficult for you to follow Jesus. To assist in this healing, I would encourage you to receive the sacrament of reconciliation offered in your parish, another parish in your area, or at the National Shrine of our Lady of Good Help.
Please know that I will be praying for each of you as you take this journey. With the Holy Spirit as our ever-faithful guide, may our commitment to following Jesus renew the church in the Diocese of Green Bay!
Follow Bishop Ricken on Twitter, @BpDavidRicken.