By the Rev Msgr Harry Entwistle
Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross
Sunday 4 September, 2016
St Ninians & St Chads Church, Maylands
Dietricht Bonhoffer, the German pastor who was executed for participating in a failed plot to assassinate Hitler, wrote a book on the ‘Cost of Discipleship.’
The idea that there is a cost to Christian discipleship comes as a surprise to some Christians who suffer from apathy in their Christian life. In contrast, we can witness some Christians suffering because of wrong choices they have made, but there are thousands of others who suffer only because they try to live as one of Jesus’ disciples.
Jesus did not shirk from making it clear that Christian discipleship comes with a price tag attached to it. His words that anyone who follows him must ‘hate’ his father and mother grates in our ears because the world ‘hate’ is such a strong word meaning ‘to despise’ in modern English. It does mean that, but in Scripture, the word translated as ‘hate’ can also mean, ‘to love less.’ In other words, every disciple is called to love Jesus more than family, or even his or her own life. Jesus goes on further to say that everything in life must come second to God for those living a life of discipleship. And that means more than a disciple just saying that it does.
St Paul paid a great price for responding to Jesus’ call to discipleship. He was beaten, shipwrecked, imprisoned and eventually crucified. Yet even in prison he paid the price of sending his friend and companion, Onesimus, a runaway slave whom Paul had befriended, return to his former owner, describing him as a Christian brother whom his owner, Philemon should respect as such. This Onesimus could be the Onesimus who became bishop of Ephesus and was martyred in 68 AD. So discipleship was costly for Paul, Philemon and Onesimus.
Jesus calls us to a life long discipleship. The Latin word ‘to call’ is ‘vocare’ from which we get the word, ‘vocation.’ Now in our modern world Vocational Sessions in schools etc. are about students finding the right job, but for Jesus, the call to discipleship is a call to putting him and his Church first so that they shape the life of the disciple.
The thread running through Scripture is that of a journey, and the first great journey was that of Abraham. God promised him numerous offspring, but he had no child and his wife was barren. Yet he believed God’s promise, obeyed God’s instruction to leave his home and travel south, heading for the Negeb desert.
Unlike most of our journeys, Abraham has no idea where he would end up. He had to learn, like all followers of God have to learn, that until we take the first step, God does not let us know what the second step is. As Blessed John Henry Newman said in his hymn, ‘Lead kindly light.’
“I do not ask to see the distant scene; one step enough for me.”
This is scary for many people, so they won’t take the risk of making that first step, or if they do, stay put in a comfortable place on the journey and refuse to go any further. The life of discipleship is our riskiest journey, not knowing what lies ahead, but trusting Jesus’ promise that whoever perseveres to the end will be saved.
Every single one of us is called to put Jesus and his teaching, expressed by the Church, first. We all have a vocation to do that. It is a life choice, not just a job description, to love God first and to love others no more or less than we love ourselves.
We are called to live this life either as a single person or in a marriage relationship because these are also vocations that shape how we live our life as a disciple. Those called to the married state and have children, are called to be disciples reflecting the life of the Holy Family of Mary, Joseph and Jesus as well as undertaking different ministries in the Church as their children grow. Some married men may be called to be Permanent deacons in the Church.
Some are called to the single life, a state that allows them greater flexibility to serve the mission of Jesus either locally or in the wider world. Others who are called to the single life of celibacy may also be called to be transitional deacons, priests or to the Religious life.
In the Ordinariate we are keeping this week from our Patronal Festival of Our Lady of the Southern Cross until the feast of Our Lady’s nativity as a week of prayer for vocations. I hope you have been keeping this week and will continue to do so.
We need more priests and it would be a blessing to have Religious in our Ordinariate, but above all we need to pray for grace to be able to trust Jesus and for him to be able to trust us, on our journey of discipleship. Above all, we must pray that we and others will be courageous enough to take the first step in offering a prayer that we might live out our vocation to be disciples of Jesus who learn from him, and to be apostles who are sent to invite others to join us on the journey.
Pray this week like you have never prayed before because Prayer does not so much change things as change people who change things.