By Helene Paharik
Part 27 of a weekly series
In the Holy Land, I was blessed to visit a desert monastery. I met two of the monks and I asked them why they were there.
The first monk said, “This is the place I need to be to get myself into heaven. I can pray five times a day and avoid sin here.”
The second monk said, “This is the place I need to be to get the most people into heaven. Being here I can best pray and work for the salvation of others.”
A disciple does all he or she can to grow in his or her relationship with Jesus, such as my first monk. A disciple maker builds such a relationship with Jesus, then does all he or she can so that others can grow in their relationship with God, such as my second monk.
A disciple has a heart for God. A disciple maker has a heart for God and for people.
On Mission for The Church Alive! is about learning Jesus, loving Jesus, living Jesus. Like all loving relationships there are distinct phases to our discipleship: beginning disciple, growing disciple, co-missioned disciple, disciple maker and spiritual multiplier. Sounds like a lot of jargon, but the bottom line is we all need to think about where we are in our relationship with Jesus.
A beginning disciple is infatuated! It is the “I can’t get enough of you” sensation. The song for this phase might be “Give me Jesus! You can have all this world, but give me Jesus!”
Beginning disciples also have a noticeable change in their attitude toward the church. It is not just a place to go, or a building — but it is how we meet Jesus: Jesus in the sacraments; Jesus in the preaching; Jesus in the serving; Jesus in the faces of fellow parishioners. It is less about where we encounter Jesus and more about the quality of the encounter with Jesus.
Beginning disciples are hungry — we can’t get enough. When we fall in love, we want to learn all about our beloved.
Beginning disciples also want to clean up our act. There is a desire to go to confession, to avoid sin, to change behaviors. Just like when we fall in love, we are willing to change to please the one we love, to be our best selves. This phase does not end but remains with Jesus’ disciples as our relationship with Jesus deepens. But it has to deepen. And it has to reach out.
My first monk, although well into his seventh decade, was stuck as a beginning disciple. It still was all about him. Think about your loving relationships. Mature love is less concerned with self and more concerned for others. A mature disciple of Jesus is able to “be a friend of Jesus and make friends for Jesus,” as Bishop David Zubik said in his pastoral letter “The Church Evangelizing!”
The goal of On Mission for The Church Alive! is to get us all on mission, becoming disciples and making disciples. On Mission for The Church Alive! is less about reorganizing external structures as it is about reorganizing our own priorities. We all have to change on the inside. We all need to assess our relationship with Jesus. Or else we are simply rearranging deck chairs.
For us to be On Mission for The Church Alive! we need to get on the road to discipleship. Then keep moving on.
Paharik is a diocesan associate general secretary.