Our Sacred Stories ~ The Challenge of Discipleship Choosing Jesus: Our Master and Mentor
This past week, I had a phone call from a friend in western Australia. We had the opportunity to reconnect and share what is happening with each other lately. It was an easy call to make, using WhatsApp and its capacity to make a free phone call via the app on our cellphones. It got me thinking about how things have changed over the years.
Almost 200 years ago when my ancestors came here from Ireland such contact was nowhere near so easy. Leaving Ireland for North America, meant leaving family, friends and the familiar settings of home, probably never to see or hear from them again. At the very best, there might be a letter that took weeks or even months to arrive, if it did. To migrate was a true change in life. To take up living in a new land, meant as well, a leaving behind or letting go of what had been theirs. The decision to migrate was in many ways a conversion in their lives.
Such occasions or conversions in our lives are times when we find ourselves faced with choices as to what we are going to do. The difficult thing about making a choice is that when we choose one direction, we are also choosing not to take the other. We normally do not struggle with choosing between a good and a bad, or an acceptable versus an unacceptable option. The struggle comes when we find ourselves having to choose between one of several goods, or between two options, neither of which is entirely good nor entirely bad.
Little choices are easy, they are quickly made. But we are called upon to make many more crucial one, choices that will that impact us and others deeply. These are life choices. Such significant choices along our road of life require careful thought and discernment. They also require a willingness to be honest in what is best and a readiness to carry out the choice. They demand commitment and courage, a willingness to step out in uncertainty (Matt.10:37-42).
Those disciples who decided to follow Jesus had to make many such choices. As we find in the Gospels the beginning of these choices came with their initial interest in what they heard and saw of Jesus. This led them to a step into what we can call a conversion. While the Gospels often present this step as a sudden change in their lives, it was much more tentative. First, they became curious about Jesus, like Zacchaeus in Luke’s Gospel. He had heard so much about Jesus, that he wanted to meet him. When Jesus came along, Zacchaeus who was quite short found himself at the back of the crowd. Curiosity let him to climb a tree in order to see Jesus (Lk.19:1-10). Thus began his discipleship.
From their first encounter, for all disciples, the route is long, with many steps and stages. There are many choices, decisions which bring about changes in our lives. Through word and action, the disciples come to view Jesus as their master, teacher, and mentor. A disciple’s aim is to become like the master. Like anyone who migrates to a new land, the decision means many subsequent choices and more decisions – accepting and letting go, becoming changed and new. There is never just one conversion, it means on-going conversions throughout life. As we grow in life, so too does our relationship with Jesus.
Real faith in Jesus is a relationship. It is marked by constant growth. It is never the same, day to day and it repeatedly demands choices, “forks” in the road along the way. Perhaps surprisingly for us we discover that faith, our faith is “caught” from others not so much “taught” by others, for it is a faith grounded on a person and that person is Jesus, the Christ. We live in relationship with him.