- Fr. John Jennings
Our Sacred Stories ~ Being a Disciple of Jesus: Living the Extraordinary in Our Lives
A couple who are friends of mine have a daughter who runs in marathons around North America. Marathon runners are an interesting or even an amazing lot. A person who enters such events does not do so simply by deciding one day that they would like to run. Running a marathon is a long-term decision. Months of training, careful diet, dedication to the preparation and mental focus are essential for such an undertaking.
Commitment and perseverance lie at the base of marathon running. The person must dedicate their attention, time and energy over a long period of training. Not only that, the day of the event and the race itself will make huge physical and mental demands on the person. Running 42 kilometers up and down hills for 4-5 hours in all kinds of conditions drains a person. A person cannot do this without commitment and perseverance.
In the marathon running of their daughter, my friends discovered another element of such an experience. Though it seems a solitary activity, it is in some sense, amazingly social. Thousands of people come out to witness the event. In the case of their daughter, her marathon plans are always communicated to her family. Her parents could be relied upon to travel great distances to support her in the race. She never runs alone, but with the support of family and friends as well as spectators. Perhaps, in all of this we discover a model for discipleship.
One who would become a disciple of Jesus does so not for the moment, but for the long journey. Discipleship is always a process of becoming and continual dedication. We see this in the Gospels as Jesus call disciples to journey with him. It is not a short-term undertaking and it is full of challenges and unknown twists and turns. The commitment to the journey will call for dedication and perseverance, and it is never carried out alone.
As Luke tells the story of Jesus on his mission of the Kingdom there is a turning point that comes in chapter 9. From this point Jesus is directed to Jerusalem where his mission will be completed with his crucifixion, resurrection and return to the Father. Luke points out the resolution and determination that will mark Jesus on his mission. And he continues to call disciples to join him.
They will need the resolution and determination of Jesus. They will need the perseverance and commitment to purpose of a marathon runner. As disciples, they will accompany Jesus on his journey. In Luke 9:51-62 we hear of three persons willing to set out on the mission. Jesus presents them with the challenging reality that they will face. Their decision will demand commitment. It will mean setting priorities in which they cannot do everything. Some things in life, even good things will have to be given up. In all of this, they will have to “stick with it.” Often the disciple will need to persevere in the face of challenges and the temptation to turn around. Discipleship will have a cost for them, but they will never be alone in their response.
Reflection Question: What is the cost of discipleship in my life? What does it demand? Who is with me?