TRUE DISCIPLESHIP AND APOSTOLATE
Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost – July 27th, 2008
[Main theme: St. Mark 6: 7-13]
By : V. REV. K. MATHAI COR-EPISCOPA
The gospel reading for next Sunday, the eleventh Sunday after the feast of Pentecost, is from St. Mark 6:7-13, which describes Jesus calling in and sending out His twelve disciples for a great mission. The gospel passage contains the following details:
(1) Jesus called the twelve to him
(2) He sent them out two by two with authority over evil spirit
(3) He gave them necessary instructions to be observed during their mission work – (a) take nothing except a staff, (b) take no bread, no bag and no money with them, (c) wear sandal, but no extra tunic, (d) stay in the house where they are received and accept their hospitality, (e) shake the dust off their feet when they leave the city which did not receive them and listened to their message,
(4) The message to preach was repentance
(5) The duties to perform were (a) driving out many demons and (b) healing the sick by anointing them with oil.
The disciples Jesus called were ordinary men, but their assigned task was extraordinary. They were men “with a nature like ours” (James 5:17). Being with Jesus they were trained, educated, transformed and empowered with divine authority and then sent out two by two for the mission.
The twelve disciples had two-fold functions: (1) be with the guru (master) and (2) be an Apostle (one who is sent) to work for the master. In St. Mark 3:14 it says, ‘Then He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach, and to have the power to heal sicknesses and to cast out demons” (OSB). As it was mentioned prior, the disciples were common people for an uncommon calling. The common people like us who live with the Lord will be transformed and can perform uncommon task.
In this weekly devotional address I present to you the theme of discipleship. To explain the subject effectively I suggest discussions based on two questions: (1) Who is a disciple?; (2) How are we to become true disciples of Christ?
(1) Who is a disciple?
The Greek word for disciple is “Mathetes” which literally means a learner or a student. In the Sermon on the Mount, we read “When He (Jesus) was seated His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them.” (St. Matthew 5-7). The Twelve Disciples learned many things by hearing what they heard from Jesus, their “Good Teacher” (St. Jn 3:2), seeing what Jesus did during the ministry, and imitating what Jesus showed them through life. In other words, they were always with Jesus hearing, seeing and helping Him.
According to the Holy Bible all Christians are disciples of Christ. “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.“ (St. Matt. 28:19-20, NIV). Thus, a believer who believes in Jesus Christ as the Lord and savior and is baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity, and follows the teachings of Christ and His Apostles is a disciple.
(2) How are we to become true disciples of Christ?
We become true disciples by obeying His commandments. “Teach them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Mtt.28:20). Then the question is what the commandments are.
(a) By definition a disciple is a learner (Mathetes), and therefore a Christian should study the Word of God, not just for intellectual exercise, but to practice in life. Discipleship is a way of living. Jesus said, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.” (St. Jn. 8:31, OSB). We have to search for the sources of wisdom to spiritually edify our lives, such as (1) the Holy Bible, (2) teachings of Holy Apostles, (3) the sayings and teachings of the fathers and the teachers of the church whom we respect, and (4) any other. It is said, ‘even if it should be a word coming out of the mouth of a sinner, it might be spiritually beneficial.’ An example is cited from the life experience of a highly venerable church father in fourth century known as, St. Ephram.
One day a woman looked at St. Ephram and stared at him so hard and for so long that he became embarrassed. He asked the woman why she was staring at him so long. Answering the question she said to him, ‘It’s natural that I should look at a man, because woman, when she was created, was taken from the body of a man. But as for you, you ought to look at the ground, because you were taken from the soil of the earth.’ The saint considered the woman’s words as a useful spiritual lesson, and from that time onwards he trained himself to look at the ground when any woman looked at him.
(b) “Love” is another commandment for the disciples to obey. Jesus said, “A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another” (St. John 13:34-35, NIV). Love is not just emotions or lust. True love is demonstrated by being patient, kind, rejoicing with truth, trustworthy, hopeful, persevering, and never failing. It is not the real love to be jealous, boasting, be proud, rude, self-seeking, easily angered (hot tempered), keeping record of others’ wrong doings, and be delighted in evil (see St. Paul’s song of love in 1Cor. 13:1-8).
It is easy to love those who love us. Our love may be in the tone of ‘you scratch my back and I will scratch yours.’ Jesus asks “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? …Do not even pagans do that?” (Matt.5:46-47). The Divine standard of true love is the love of enemies and praying for the persecutors. By doing so, we become the sons and daughters of God, and will “be perfect as the Heavenly Father is perfect’ (Matt 5: 44, 48).
(c ) A disciple is a person of prayer. Jesus was the perfect example of the prayer-filled life. He prayed not only at the time of joy, peace and honor, but before the cup of pain and suffering as well. At Gethsemane Jesus knelt down and prayed “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me, yet not my will, but yours be done” (St. Luke 22:49, NIV). To the sleeping disciples there, Jesus said, “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation” (LK 22:46, NIV). Jesus taught His disciples a prayer when they requested, and that prayer is “Our Father, who art in Heaven……”, which is usually known as the Lord’s Prayer, but really a prayer for Christ’s disciples. It is a true model of prayer showing all aspects of the perfect prayer and worship, such as glory and praise to the Heavenly Father, God’s Will to be fulfilled in and on earth, petitioning for our daily bread and other needs, forgiving each other and submitting ourselves to God.
We may complain about the length of prayer and worship. But the complainers may spend any amount of time after the worship talking and socializing without any complaint. We may plan fun-filled programs demanding to cut short the time of prayer and worship to attract and satisfy people ignoring the importance of prayer and worship. But we should know that there is nothing more powerful as prayer. There is a saying, ‘More things are wrought by prayer than the world dreams of.’
(d) Discipleship involves determination, commitment and priority for God in our lives. Jesus said, “And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:27, OSB). Here cross represents pain and sacrifice. As a disciple we need to be willing to sacrifice little bit of our comfort and luxury for the sake of our Lord. Giving up of our bad habits and sins is a great sacrifice we can make for our Lord who loved us unconditionally and died for. To find time for prayer in the midst of busy life style and schedule is sacrifice of a bit of our time for God. To share a portion (10%) of our earning for the church and poor is a financial sacrifice. To bear personal inconvenience for the sake of our family and other people is a sacrifice. Sacrifice is not just doing only big things, but little things for others in our daily lives as well.
In other words, we need to be a sacrificial lamb within our call of life and capacity, as our Lord became a sacrificial lamb for the whole world including each one of us. Without sacrifice of others we would not have become who and what we are now, and the world would not exist without. We enjoy all the benefits of our forefathers who made sacrifices in their lives for us: our parents, political leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, social reformers like Martin Luther King and the scientists who sacrificed their time and life to invent new things for the betterment of the community and the world at large.
Christian church grew out of the sacrifices of martyrs and forefathers. Indian Churches prospered out of the blood of St. Thomas. It is said “The blood of the martyr is the seed of the church.”
There are many other qualifications of discipleship and Apostolate to be mentioned, but because of the length I conclude here. Are you a true disciple of Christ?