Forming a Healthy Disciple. Part 3 – FAITH
A Believer in – and Disciple of – Jesus Christ
If we say that we are “believing Christians” then we are disciples of Jesus Christ. This is our grounding identity. Our specific sacramental presence and our ministry in the Church is built upon this foundation.
First, we are baptized. We profess our faith. Every baptized person asks questions that I mentioned last week: “Who am I?” “Why am I here?” “Why was I created?” These are fundamental “faith questions” that we need to answer first. Only after we have answered these questions can we begin to understand what it means to be “sent on our apostolic mission.” That involves the question, “What should I be doing?”
Being called “Christians” or a “disciple” involves much more than merely a name or title. A Christian disciple has embarked on an intentional and deliberate spiritual journey. They are committed to a growing and transforming relationship with their Lord by the power of the Holy Spirit. They are also committed to embarking on this intentional journey with like-minded believers. I was recently reading a book, Faith and the Future. It was published in 1971 by (then) Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI). In the chapter, ”Faith and Reality,” Benedict states that this intentional journey is inherent in being a Christian. It cannot be done otherwise.
This relationship is marked by the following dynamics:
Growing Faith: A growing faith gives evidence of a growing relationship with a loving God. Human beings have the capacity for perceiving the divine” writes Benedict. This relationship provides an insight into the revelation of God in Jesus Christ. This is accompanied by greater practical wisdom of what that revelation means for living out that love. (Here is where that whole “formation” thing comes in).
Growing Love: Progress in the spiritual life has always been identified with growth in Caritas or the love of God. This, in turn, is linked to the love of others. (Confer the Gospel of ….. “Loving God and loving your neighbor as yourself”). Growing love is manifested in a progressive attachment to Jesus Christ. It includes a greater willingness to share in his paschal mystery. It involves more authentic worship of God in spirit and truth. Finally it is significant by an expanding and deepening compassion for others. That last point is key. It involves practical ideas on how you love your wife, husband, child, mother, dad, a colleague at work, your child’s soccer referee…. Benedict says that the only way we can know and love God is with and through other human beings. It doesn’t work any other ways. Any notion of “God and me alone” is a false religion.
Growing Hope: Hope in God enables us to trust in the promised future that God gives us. Growing hope is seen in the practical, direct, and generous ways that gospel values lead us to take action in the world. These ways open a way for God’s kingdom or God’s promise of the future. Pope Benedict writes:
Faith is essentially related to the future, that it is a promise. It signifies the “super ordination” of the future over the present. It shows the readiness to sacrifice the present for the sake of the future. It signifies life lived in the spirit of trust. It signifies the certainty that it is God who guarantees man his future. Thus it signifies a breaking out of the calculable, everyday world. It makes contact with what is eternal. It signifies man’s interest in eternal things and in the Eternal.