Well. The summer Lawn Chair Catechism is over. The book’s been read, and some of us (cough cough) couldn’t get over the procrastination hump and participate faithfully every week. Still, I read all of Sherry’s “Forming Intentional Disciples” book, and it was, without a doubt, one of the most compelling, moving and important books I’ve read in a very long, long time.
There is a certain quality lacking, I think, in our modern American Catholicism that must be reclaimed. It’s the quality that we’ve seen quoted from history, of those from an ancient age speaking about those strange and confusing peoples known as Christians.
“See, look at how they love one another!”
Now more than ever, our country and the whole world for that matter needs to be amazed and perplexed at the love we must show one another. And it starts within the heart of every believer. And it can only truly begin when said believer is a disciple.
If Jesus Christ the person isn’t at the center of one’s life – MY life – then we – I – will fail at love continuously. Oh, we may experience a taste of the love that is possible, because we are created by Love from Love for Love. Kinda like the blind squirrel finding the nut – it’s bound to happen here or there because God has infused it within our very natures, as He intended. We’ve received the gift of charity by virtue of our Baptism, and we’ve received the Holy Spirit and His gifts at our Confirmation. But receiving gifts and using the gifts as they are intended, are two very different things. It’s sort of like getting the fanciest laptop for Christmas, and using it only for playing Minesweeper and looking at funny cat pictures. Sure, you have a gift, and you’re using it for some fun things – but the fullest potential hasn’t even been explored.
By becoming intentional disciples, we can unleash those gifts freely given us through the Sacraments. When we allow the Holy Spirit to work through us, with no impediment and with total confidence, who knows what will happen? When we experience Jesus Christ as a person – not just as a guy who told parables and healed some sick folks – but as a person more real to us than any person could ever hope to be, when we say to Him “I will follow you” – that’s when all bets are off. Despite any cross, regardless of the cost, no matter what the consequence as the world defines it – whew! It staggers the imagination. Look at what a little Armenian nun was able to accomplish by becoming a disciple. Or a priest, formed from an oppressed and persecuted Poland, who did nothing but trust in Christ. Both people – Blessed Mother Teresa and Blessed Pope John Paul II – never imagined how Christ would lead them.
One of my favorite lines from Sherry’s book is a quote from Hans Urs von Balthasar (from Chapter 3 ‘The Fruit of Discipleship’):
“Simon, the fisherman, before his meeting with Christ, however thoroughly he might have searched himself, could not possibly have found a trace of Peter.”
I read that 10 weeks ago, and it still overwhelms me. The transformative power of Jesus Christ, of knowing Him and knowing His story, is unfathomable. Which can be scary, right? We know what happened to Peter, in the end. We know what happened to Christ. It’s a natural reaction, to stand with a little bit of healthy fear of being rejected and scorned (perhaps more than a little bit), of following Christ into the shadows and trusting His path. As John says to us, “Perfect love casts out fear.” Jesus is Perfect Love, and He wills to share it with everyone. Christ said many times “Be not afraid”, because he knew the human condition.
All that’s left is responding to His invitation. Become my disciple, He says.
So what’s next now that the book is finished and the chapter-by-chapter reflection is over (or in my case, here-a-chapter, skip-a-chapter!). Well, Jesus isn’t giving me an excuse to just let the matter sit and become another good idea I never get around to doing. He’s offered the invitation in a very real and forthright manner. No subtlety with Him, at least when it comes to me. Black and white, between the eyes, Captain Obvious – it’s the only way to get through my thick head.
Our parish is holding a Called & Gifted event-thingy – for four weeks, starting in mid-October. So guess who’s signing up? (for those who don’t know, “Called & Gifted” event-thingys are the seminars Sherry’s group puts on to help people discover – or uncover – their charisms so that they can be used to further and strengthen the Kingdom of God, and fulfill one’s purpose for sucking up air and stuff).
Pray for me as I embark on this next step of discipleship. Satan has a tendency to pepper my path with problems, and he knows how I’m a procrastinator. This is important. This is essential. My life depends on it – spiritually speaking, of course. I believe it will make my joy complete, somehow. I am trying to approach this with no preconceived ideas or set expectations. It literally will be a come to Jesus meeting.
One last thing – I read the final chapter while in adoration the other week, and one short paragraph touched me in a profound way, beyond all expectation. I read the following after an experience that had occurred the previous day. I can’t go into the details of that experience, but suffice it to say that I had received great consolation from God as the result of a loving act from the world’s freaking best life-saving friend. That is no exaggeration.
Here’s what I read (from Chapter 12 – ‘Expect Conversion’):
“I know many…women and men who are doing astonishing things for the Kingdom of God only because they have the active, sustained, enthusiastic support of the Christian community…In the end, the Catholic understanding of salvation is incorrigibly communal. We are all in this together, because none of us are saved by ourselves alone: we are saved as members of the Church, the body of Christ. The hand cannot say to the foot: ‘I do not need you.'”