This is part one of a seven-part series on discipleship.
In the past few years, the terms “discipleship” and “missionary discipleship” have become very familiar to those in ministry. But the concept of discipleship and mission is not new and has been a part of our Catholic faith for 2,000 years. The word disciple comes from the Greek word mathetes, meaning “pupil or student of the master.” The Master is, of course, Jesus Christ. Your qualification as a missionary disciple flows from the graces of the Sacrament of Baptism, which is the core and catalyst for the disciple’s life. Baptism imparts us with the graces necessary to share the Gospel, and there are seven keys that continue to help us to grow as disciples and form others as disciples:
These seven keys of discipleship do not represent a linear progression. Rather, they happen concurrently and at different intensities in accord with the pace that the Holy Spirit wills. In this series, I will focus on each of these keys in turn. I will begin with the first key, desire.
As disciples, we have to want to grow in our relationship with Christ and the Catholic Church. In our task to go and “make disciples of all nations,” (Matthew 28:19), we have to start with ourselves. In his address to the USCCB General Assembly in 2012, Cardinal Timothy Dolan challenged the bishops to do just that by saying, “First things first. . . . We cannot engage culture unless we let [Jesus] first engage us; we cannot dialogue with others unless we first dialogue with Him; we cannot challenge unless we first let Him challenge us.” Cardinal Dolan’s words are a challenge to each of us as well.
Regardless of our vocation, role in life, or ministry, we are all called to holiness. We cannot lead others to Jesus until we have entered into relationship with him ourselves. We ought not to evangelize others unless we have been evangelized, and we cannot effectively make disciples of others unless we are disciples ourselves. This is something we must want for ourselves as well as for others: a missionary zeal or holy desire for souls. This desire is at the heart of discipleship.
Too often, our approach to the faith lacks the fire or energy that it deserves. The flame of our holy desire has died down to a few burning embers. We find ourselves stuck in patterns that are comfortable and familiar. We become weary, tired, and indifferent. You can gauge the intensity of your desire by reflecting on the following questions: Do I have a desire to continually grow in faith and holiness? Does my ministry reflect a spirit that is warming, moving, and inviting? Do I prioritize my desire to grow in faith?
You can stoke the embers and reignite the fire of desire in four simple ways:
- Spend time every day in silence and prayer. Meditate on Scripture, the life of Christ, and the writings of the saints.
- Recognize the signs of when you become weary and tired in your ministry and your desire is faltering. Reach out to a trusted friend or spiritual director.
- Cultivate a holy attunement to how God is working in your life and in the lives of others. Reflect upon your story of faith.
- Connect with fellow ministers and those in different stages of ministry. Be nourished by the wisdom and energy of others.
What are some other ways you can fan the flame of this desire to grow as a missionary disciple? Share your thoughts with us.