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  • Fr. John Jennings

Our Sacred Stories - Discipleship: An Invitation to Relationship

Most of my adult life, some 46 years has been spent teaching. Like most teachers, I willingIy admit that I learned more than my students ever did. Looking back, there is one very significant piece of wisdom that I picked up along the way. Early in my career another more senior person shared something that is crucial for no matter what we do: “A good teacher, teaches themselves.” Looking back, I can see that no matter what we do in life, the most significant element will always be the relationships we discover, build and nurture.

That piece of wisdom should be kept in mind when we spend time with our Judeo-Christian scriptures. Too often we read and use these scriptures as “proof texts”. We look at them to find doctrinal teachings or moral teachings for our lives as Christians. Perhaps as we do so, we fail to see the fundamental purpose and truth that in fact these scriptures are meant to present.

Our Bible is a collection of books, a kind of library for us. This collection presents us with a whole series of stories that open the door to what we might call our “Great Story”. It recounts how all creation, including our humanity is a wondrous expression of God’s love. Our origin is in God’s love and our destiny is to return to the fulness of God’s love. What we find unfolding in the books of our Jewish and Christian scriptures presents and celebrates a fundamental truth of our faith. Our life and all creation exist because of God’s love. We are in relationship with our God, and God with us.

The stories of Jesus and his disciple in the New Testament - gospels, letters, historical accounts, they all need to be read in the light of this relationship of love by which we bond with our God, through Jesus the Christ. Like all the Gospel writers, Luke provides us with stories of how Jesus begins to build his circle of disciples. He calls them and challenges them where they are.

We can see this in Luke 5:1-11. Jesus gathers all kinds of people around him. In order to deal with the crowd, Jesus makes use of the setting and the situation in order to reach out to them. It is in a fishing area and so Jesus makes use of one of the fishing boats from which to teach. When he finishes speaking to the crowds, he asks the boat`s owner, Simon to go fishing with him. Simon resists at first but agrees to go and is shocked by the number of fish they catch.

Luke closes this story with Jesus issuing an explicit invitation to Simon and his partners to join him in his mission. Like the fish, they are caught. Like the fish, they are brought on board with Jesus. Having been brought on board, they leave what they have been about and follow Jesus as disciples and ultimately as partners, sharing the mission.

This is a story of an encounter leading to a relationship. Jesus will teach these disciples. He will also build and nurture a friendship with them. Over time and with many shared experiences, this circle will grow close. The unfolding of this relationship is the key to understanding the Good News. If read in this way, it can be the story of our own relationship with Jesus the Christ and with our fellow disciples in our own community of faith.

In John’s Gospel, 15:15-17 we see a proclamation of this encounter leading to relationship. It begins with these words: I do not call you servants any longer,… I have called you friends. These three verses in John can help us recognize who we are in the stories of the Gospels.

Can I read our Scriptures with this perspective of love and hope?

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