Cardinal Charles Maung Bo
Dear Brothers and Sisters
Greetings in the name of Jesus. It is another call by our loving God to be with one another. These are times of prayer for one another. No social distance can distance our hearts, distance our concern for one another. We continue to have social interaction through prayer.
Today’s readings talk of the repentance preached by the Prophet Jonah. St Paul cautions that our time is running out. In the third reading, we come across Jesus coming with the same message: The Kingdom of God is at hand.
All these three major themes join together with the central theme of today: Jesus Call to Discipleship. Jesus calls his disciples today: He calls Simon and Andrew, John and James. They were fishermen. Jesus calls them to become the fishers of men.
Today we are called to contemplate the call to discipleship. We are called up to critically look at our life and ask the question:
Are we devotees of Jesus or disciples?
We often come to church to meet Jesus, pray to Jesus. Ask for favors from Jesus. These are not wrong in themselves. Jesus is the Lord of the Universe, second person of the Trinity at whose name all will bend their knees and worship.
Just a month ago, we celebrated not only his great Lordship. We celebrated his earthly incarnation. In his earthly incarnation, Jesus constantly called people to follow him, become his disciple. That call is a challenge and many do not accept that.
Being a devotee is an easy task. Often it could end up by doing transactions with Jesus and even become a business relationship. We tend to have a business relationship with God: You pray, you give. Once the transaction is over, devotion is over till the next time we need something.
Discipleship is more demanding. It is more enriching. The Bible notion of relationship is rich. It will help us in our family life, in individual life, in our community life. The Bible indicates discipleship. It is marked by
- Entering into an empowering relationship
- Accepting a commitment to serve and to be like Jesus
- Being a good news to others and proclaiming the good news to others
- Making others disciples
Entering into an empowering relationship with others and God
Discipleship is not slavery. Discipleship is relationship. Jesus made it clear. His call is to be his disciple, to be his friends.
I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. John 15:15.
That relationship is based on mutual enrichment as John the Baptist said of Jesus: He much increase and I must decrease. In this way we can have discipleship even in the family. Husband and wife can be disciples to one another. This is the Trinitarian discipleship. It is not a dominating relationship, but sharing, empowering relationship. The relationship Jesus nurtured with his discipleship is a great example of family.
Discipleship is Accepting the commitment to serve and be like Jesus
Being a disciple is Jesus’ call to imitate him and replicate him. As disciples, we are called to imitate Jesus’ love (Jn. 13:34), commit to his mission (Mt. 4:19), live with his humility (Phil. 2:5), his service (Jn. 13:14), his suffering (1 Pt. 2:21) and his obedience to the Father (1 Jn. 2:3-6).
Since he is our teacher, we are to learn from him and strive in the power of the Holy Spirit to become like him (Lk. 6:40). This growth in Christ-likeness is a lifelong endeavor that is fueled by the hopeful expectation that one day we will see him face to face (1 Jn. 3:2-3).
In our own family, the spirit of discipleship makes us to see one another as Jesus himself and serve one another. Power does not enter in the family, but love. All the great values of Jesus is reflected in a family that is living with the spirit of discipleship: humility, redemptive suffering for one another, service to one another.
Being a Good News to others and proclaiming the Good News to others
The greatest mission given to the disciples is found in the Gospel of Mathew: All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. Mathew 28:18-20
Jesus came with the Good News. God loves us all; saves us all. We are to inherit an eternal life. Christ is the Good News to the world as the universal redeemer. The disciple's major mission is to bring the Good News to the poor.
Mother Terese urged each one of us to become a Good News to other, to become the Living Bible. Family life is a great place for evangelizing one another. Being a disciple in the family means being a Good News to one another.
Discipleship is to leave the old and take up the new – with an undivided heart towards Jesus
When Jesus calls Simon and Andrew they leave everything, including their boats. A new life starts. The call to discipleship is defined all throughout the Bible, but one of the most prominent places is found in Luke chapter 14.
Luke chapter 14 defines a disciple as someone who is abandoned and surrendered to Christ, someone who has an undivided heart that is wholly dedicated to loving the Lord. The call to discipleship is a call to leave the world behind and follow Jesus.
Following Christ will cost us, requiring effort and consistency (Matt. 8:18-22). The original disciples left their families and good jobs (Matt. 10:37). But this is worth the cost.
Discipleship in the family costs each one of us a lot. But we are constantly urged not to bear wounds from the past but look towards the future with hope. Everyday there is a call in each family: leave the past and go towards the future.
Inspiring others to be Disciples for Christ “to be Fishers of Men”
The last aspect of making disciples is helping other believers grow in Christ-likeness. Jesus has designed his Church to be a body (1 Cor. 12), a kingdom of citizens and a family who actively build each other up into the fullness of Christ (Eph. 2:19; 4:13, 29).
We are called to instruct each other about Christ (Rom. 15:14) and to imitate others who are following Christ (1 Cor. 4:16, 11:1; 2 Thess. 3:7, 9). Christ calling of the fishermen to be ‘fishers of men’” is a call to inspire the humanity to follow Christ’s message.
The disciples will become great apostles in proclaiming his message and turning thousands to be disciples of Jesus. Most of the first Christians were not devotees but disciples, carrying the message to others and making them disciples.
Family life can be controlled by material concerns. Family discipleship leads us into become ‘fishers of man’ meaningfully relating to one another’s humanity.
Discipleship is to establish the Kingdom of God – calling for repentance
The three readings of today speak of one theme: the urgency of God’s Kingdom and the need for repentance.
The prophet Jonah called for total repentance of the sin filled city of Nineveh. Today’ second reading comes with clarion call of St Paul with an urgency: The world in its present form will pass away. So the need to get rid of all that is sinful in us.
In the Gospel, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the Kingdom of God. He too announces an urgency: This is the time of fulfilment -- the Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel.”
What is this Kingdom of God? Is this the Church? The great theologian Hans Kung once said: Christ came to establish the Kingdom of God but it ended as the Church.
The meaning is that the Church is not the ultimate destination of the disciple of Christ. The Church is the handmaid of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God, Christ is the King of Kings. That rule starts now on this earth when justice, peace, fellowship and prosperity reigns supreme for all, especially for the anawim of Yahweh (The poor of Yahweh).
God’s Kingdom is already and not yet, meaning, it starts here and ends in heaven. Heaven on earth. This is the mission of Jesus. Jesus tells us that we are here not to do missio ecclesia (mission of the Church) but mission Dei (Mission of God). That is the work of the disciple.
Since this is the challenge most of us settled down to be devotees. Jesus never wanted devotees. He warned his disciples who tried to be devotees: Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Mt: 7:21
A true follower of Christ is the disciple, who is willing to carry the cross – all suffering, knowing fully eternal reward awaits him.
Each of our family can become a workplace for God’s Kingdom. The family that has Kingdom values shows fruits of the Holy Spirit: Love, Joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and self-control.
Today’s readings have given a road map for the Church and the family to become disciples, giving up the temptations of constantly doing transactions with God as a devotee but as a disciple.
May almighty God, inspire us to take the path of discipleship in these challenging times. Let the mentality of discipleship help each one of us to live without anxiety and fear. Let our families be animated by a spirit of discipleship so that peace, joy and fellowship pervades our thinking and our life.