September 16, 2016
I was invited to speak to a group of Catholic men in Richmond, Indiana last night on the topic of “Beyond Discipleship – Being An Apostle.”
Here is a summary of that talk:
To get us started, I’d like to share with you the theme of our school year: “Teach me, lead me, guide me to Jesus.” These were the words of St. John Paul II when he was serving as Pope. Consider for a moment who was saying those words – the leader of the Church, the person we look to as our lead apostle!
What Pope John Paul II prayed for was to be taught, led, and guided to Jesus, so that he could more fully teach, lead, and guide others. He wanted to go beyond discipleship and be the apostle he was called to be.
We chose this as our school theme because we wanted to impress upon the staff this very sentiment. We have 700 young people who need to be taught, led, and guided to Jesus. We must be apostles!
I hope I don’t come off as downplaying the role of disciple; it is a goal for all of us to be disciples. It speaks of a full commitment to Christ – a desire to imitate Him, to walk with Him, and even to carry the cross with Him.
Discipleship is difficult work and not for everyone. From John, Chapter 6: Then many of his disciples who were listening said, “Theses teachings are difficult; who can accept them?” As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.
Being a disciple is a worthy goal in itself. So what does it mean for us to go beyond discipleship? What does it mean to be an apostle?
This is what my pastor, Fr. Jim Farrell, said about being an apostle: Apostles are in Jesus’ inner circle. There is a deeper degree of intimacy. The twelve saw Jesus in times that others did not see him. They saw Jesus in a different light. They saw him challenged by the Pharisees; they saw him healing, forgiving, and teaching. They prayed with him. They were drawn into a place where Jesus could be transparent with them.
Being an apostle calls us to a deeper, more intimate encounter with Jesus.
A disciple follows Jesus. An apostle “drops his nets” and follows Jesus.
A disciple carries the cross with Jesus. An apostle carries the cross for Jesus.
All apostles are disciples, but not all disciples are apostles.
Now to the practical side – what does being an Apostle look like for a bunch of guys like us?
First, we must get rid of the excuses:
“I’m not worthy to be an apostle” – It is not about being worthy or not worthy; it’s about being called and responding to that call.
“My faith is personal” – Your faith may be personal, but it is not private. You have an obligation to share your faith with others.
Some advice for all of us:
- Step out of your comfort zone by trying new faith experiences. Go on a retreat, join a prayer group or a bible study, or take on a new role in your parish. Invite others to join you in these activities.
- Reach out to people in need, but not only when it is convenient. Do it with a servant’s heart. And when you serve, invite others to serve alongside you.
- Make prayer a priority – put it on your calendar and commit to it.
- When people ask you to pray for something, do it. Even better, do it with them…right then and there.
- Pray in public – before meals, prior to meetings, etc. You may make others brave enough to do the same.
Two extra pieces of advice for you dads:
- Archbishop Tobin shared this about his own father: My dad did not send us to church, he took us to church. Worship with your family.
- It is great to show your kids that you love them. Tell them you love them, too. It has a greater impact than you will ever know.
What’s the pay-off? Well, eternal life for starters.
As far as immediate pay-off, it may never come. But every once in a while you may be affirmed by something like this e-mail I received yesterday. This came from a young lady who graduated from Bishop Chatard last May:
Deacon Rick: I just wanted to send you a quick thank you. I wanted to let you know how truly blessed I feel. The last four years helped me become who I am today, especially in terms of my faith. You, along with so many others, allowed me to express who I was through countless faith activities and groups. I really found who I was in my relationship with God. I owe special thanks to you for that.
I have been grateful to attend Mass every Sunday since I’ve been at college, and I’ve already made some great friends from that. This past Sunday, I was trained to be a Eucharistic Minister at the local Catholic Church on campus. I would never have had the inspiration to reach out of my comfort zone to do that without your help. Thank you so much for everything you did for me!
I certainly know the young lady who wrote this. However, I can’t think of anything special I did for her. I can’t remember a time I focused on her thinking, “What can I do to bring her closer to God?”
It’s witness that counts. That’s what we are called to do – live a life that glorifies God.
Drop your net and follow Jesus. Carry the cross of Jesus. Carry it both with Him and for Him.
I will end with more words from Fr. Jim: Perhaps one could say that a disciple learns from the master and then goes out in to the world. The Apostle is drawn close to the master – is taken into his confidence – walks with him – draws strength from him – and recognizes that he or she also must give something in return.