Week Five: Forming Intentional Disciples

Chapter Four: Grace and The Great Quest

This week’s discussion questions:

In your own faith:

  • It can be hard to settle our minds on the idea of “cooperating with grace”.  How would you explain the Catholic doctrine on salvation to others?

In your parish:

  • How does your parish currently respond when there are serious doubts about the readiness of a candidate for the sacraments?
  • How would a discipleship model of preparation fit into your current approach?

As you can tell, I’m making great strides in developing my charism of procrastination – publishing last week’s reflection and discussion a day before the next one starts.

I’ve rarely been asked to explain the Catholic doctrine of salvation to others. Whether that’s been by the grace of the Holy Spirit, or I’ve been too dense to recognize the opportunities, I can’t really say. But if I were asked, I’d say that salvation is a process, a daily response to Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary. It’s a past-present-future reality: I *have* been saved (by His death and resurrection); I *am being* saved (by the grace of that event and my acceptance of that grace); and I *will* be saved (because I ain’t dead yet) by God’s grace.

Becoming a disciple of Christ isn’t an assurance of salvation – you can ask Judas how that worked out for him (yes, yes, I know that the Church doesn’t definitively teach that Judas wasn’t saved, but at the very least, we can look to his example of what discipleship does not look like. It doesn’t involve denying and betraying Christ).

But it’s a necessary first step along the pathway. Because how else can we reach heaven if we don’t follow Him who showed the way and opened its doors? To one degree or another, we must be disciples of Jesus Christ.  We must answer the call to follow Him.  It’s that simple – and seemingly, that difficult.  The Church provides all we need in order to remain disciples – beyond the initial step whereby we conform our wills, because we can’t be forced to be disciples – by virtue of the sacraments.

The sacraments dispense grace, and the better disposed we are towards that grace, the more we receive. The more grace we receive, the better equipped we are to remain His disciples. Again, it’s not automatic (i.e., Judas’ betrayal, Peter’s denial, the apostles ran away in the garden). I see in my own life how easily I fall back into sin, within hours of receiving the Eucharist even. Mostly that’s because I’m a stupid sinner, but as the second reading from Sunday’s Mass told me, our flesh and spirit wrestle all the time. Grace assists the spirit in that battle, but all too often, it seems, I side with the flesh, and we tag-team the spirit, beating it with folding chairs, and crushing it with flying leaps off the pylons.

Let me tell you, it’s getting old.

But I’m not without hope – not in the least. I know God is leading me in this journey of discipleship. The readings from this past Sunday’s Mass is the most recent sign.  Not only the 2nd reading, but the Gospel as well.  It was just last week where I reflected:

But before any of that can happen – before I can answer “What is God calling me to do?” – I have to decide. The plow is beckoning, to break up the hard soil and clear away the stones. Am I ready to step onto the field and grasp the handle, and furrow the fields so that fruit might flourish according to God’s design?

So what did Jesus say in Sunday’s Gospel? “He who sets his hand to the plow and looks back is not fit for the kingdom of God.”

God and that sense of humor of His. What a comedian.

I take it as a sign that, despite my procrastination and shuffling my feet, God is telling me I’m heading in the right direction.  By His grace, I’ll set my sights forward and not look back. I’ll get there.

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