“Go and Make Disciples” (Homily for Ascension Thursday)
Here’s the question: “While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky?”
Here’s the command: “Jesus said, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go! Make disciples of all nations.”
Discipleship and making disciples are concepts that mystify and challenge American Catholics. Many are not sure what discipleship is. Making disciples always seemed to be something best left to the “professionals.” Priests and theologians and religious sisters do that, correct?
In his 1975 Encyclical on Evangelization (Evantelii Nuntiandi, 1975), Pope Paul VI wrote that,
“All Christians are called to be witnesses” because, “Above all the Gospel must be proclaimed by witness… a handful of Christians, in the midst of their own community, sharing of life and destiny with other people, for whatever is noble and good. (#21)
How do we do this? There are some steps. The Catholic evangelization website U-Evangelize lists five. (I’ve included them below). Let me focus on the first two:
The first step in becoming a disciple is “Embracing My Identity.”
Start with these questions: Who am I? Why am I here? To help answer those two questions, ask yourself, “What am I good at? What do I enjoy doing that seems to have a positive effect on the people around me?”
That line of questioning might seem rather self-absorbed. It is. So the answer can only come through an engagement with a community. The community, par excellence, is marriage. You discover yourself by offering yourself to another and letting that other person help you figure it out.
The theology of marriage has been developed in terms of ‘gift’…”writes Cardinal Marc Ouellet). Men and women are created in the image of God (cf. Genesis 1:26-27). One of the great theological insights of Vatican II was the idea that “humanity, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself to another” (Gaudium et Spes 24)
This leads to the second component of discipleship – A Commitment to Holiness. What’s that?
- Holy Traits – What does a holy person do? What does a holy person not do? Mother Teresa followed the suggestion of St. Paul in I Thessalonians 5 and prayed. Mother Teresa also followed St. Paul’s advice in Galatians 5 and did not get rip-roaring drunk. So, make two lists. On one, write down what holiness looks like. On the other, write what holiness does not look like.
- Holy Habits – Which traits on each list are you following? You most likely have check marks on both. Do the one on the good list. Ask God for help on the others. Do this regularly. That’s developing Holy Habits.
- Holy Mindset – This is about attitude. It’s where you say, “Ya know, this is important and I gotta do this.”
- Holy Choices – This is about action. Look at and consider the points I’ve made. Pick one. Say one prayer and start with that one. The Holy Spirit will take it from there.
Notice, I didn’t mention about becoming an expert in the Bible. You don’t have to go out and knock on doors. You aren’t being called to quote scriptures from street corners. Now, those are some aspects of a disciple. The first component of discipleship is a relationship with another person Jesus Christ. These ideas are about starting there.
U-Evangelize provides a plan to Catholic discipleship and evangelization called “Evangelist Basecamp.” The modules they cover are listed below but PLEASE SIGN UP WITH THEM ALSO: