This is the seventh and final post in a series about discipleship.
We have explored the following keys of discipleship—desire, discernment, decision-making, discipline, dwelling in the Word, and dependence on the Holy Spirit. With this article, we will conclude our series by focusing on a key element of discipleship: doing.
Essential to our growth in discipleship is our disposition (being) in relationship to God and how to put our faith at the service of others (knowing). But it is the moving of our faith from our head to our heart and to our feet and hands (doing) that makes the work of discipleship concrete and tangible. In this way, the intellectual, the affective, and the behavioral all come together as mind, body, and spirit.
One of the greatest lessons that I was given in discipleship was from a dear friend and mentor. “Julianne, you know a lot about your faith, but faith is not meant to be kept at the level of information but transformation,” Father Eoin said to me after a college class one day. “Faith moves us out from ourselves to place ourselves at the service of others, and don’t forget that,” he urged me. That conversation led me to leave Ireland at the age of 23 and minister in the United States. In the Letter of James, we are urged to “be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves.” (James 1:22) The Word of God is not just for our own contemplation but for the transformation of the world.
Yet despite the inherent mission-oriented nature of our Catholic faith, we often get caught up in small circles and ways of being that remain closed off to others. But discipleship that has an elitist or “country club” mentality is not discipleship at all. An attitude that is based on exclusion is not a part of Jesus’ mandate to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” (Matthew 28:19) The term Catholic comes from the Greek words kata and holos and means “of the whole” or “universal.” The term Catholic is found in the writings of St. Ignatius of Antioch, referencing the Church in the beginning of the second century, and the Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian creeds. The Gospel is for every person, not just for some. The Gospel is not reserved for those who look like us, live like us, or pray like us. Jesus came to save every person, those we love, and those we despise. As Christians, it is our responsibility to take our Baptism seriously as beloved children of God and share the source of that love, God, with others.
Pope Francis reminds us that, “being a disciple means being constantly ready to bring the love of Jesus to others, and this can happen unexpectedly and in any place: on the street, in a city square, during work, on a journey.” (Evangelii Gaudium #127) We must move from being passive hearers of the Word to active doers of the Word in the world. All that we do should be modeled on Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit out of love for God the Father.
Discipleship is not a program but a way of life. It is a process that takes place over a lifetime and grows as we grow, being shaped by our experiences of the world around us. Where Jesus leads, we must follow. Where he goes, we go, and when he asks us to lead, let our answer be a resounding “Yes!”
What has helped you grow as a doer of the Word? Share your insights here.
Take a moment and ask yourself: does every activity in my parish point more deeply to Jesus? Julianne Stanz wants to help you and your parish community make sure the answer to this question is a resounding, “Yes!” Order Julianne’s new book, Start with Jesus: How Everyday Disciples Will Renew the Church, available now.