(CatholicMom.com’s Lawn Chair Catechism lesson for this week from Sherry Waddell’s “Forming Intentional Disciples,” is Chapter 4: The Fruit of Discipleship.)
Does this description of disciples make you yearn to be one? To know and follow Jesus as close as his best friends?
“Disciples pray with passion. Disciples worship. Disciples love the Church and serve her with energy and joy. Disciples give lavishly. Disciples hunger to learn more about their faith. Disciples fill every formation class in the parish or diocese. Disciples manifest charisms and discern vocations. They clamor to discern God’s call because they long to live it. Disciples evangelize because they have really good news to share. Disciples share their faith with their children. Disciples care about the poor and about issues of justice. Disciples take risks for the Kingdom of God.”
Whether we are leaders in the parish, avoiding ministry, burned out or somewhere in between, these attributes can be ours. No one can be cajoled or persuaded to take these on like another project to be organized, implemented and fulfilled. The call to discipleship comes from God who first calls us to repentance and the freedom we need to evangelize effectively. He knows that we cannot sustain even one of these discipleship traits without an intimate relationship with him.
We begin building that relationship with repentance, as we pray with passion, from the heart. This leads to true worship, a new love for the Church, a desire to serve with energy and joy. That energy and joy comes from the life of Jesus expanding in our hearts, which he desires more than he desires our serving in a ministry. He develops in us every quality we need in partnership with him in this love relationship.
The “before” and “after” discipleship time in my life came when our family was in a parish that didn’t even seem alive. The religious education ministers struggled under the alcoholic pastor. To fulfill our duty to our children, my husband and I dragged our children and ourselves to mass every Sunday.
It took one of the renewal movements outside the parish to snap us all out of it. After a few weeks our faith became vibrant again, our prayer life exciting. We felt loved by the Lord and by our new friends. To me, it was like the scene in the Wizard of Oz where Dorothy wakes up after the tornado. As she opens the door to Oz, the scene slowly changes from black and white to Technicolor. Everything is brilliant. She experiences a new life she never imagined. That’s what happened to me. My new life comes from my personal relationship with Jesus. Without it I cannot evangelize and wouldn’t want to try.
I have seen similar Oz moments in dozens of others. One woman was overwhelmed by the presence of the Lord as she stood at her kitchen sink washing dishes. This was her Oz experience. Many persistent worshippers encounter Jesus personally when receiving the Eucharist or during Adoration. For some their Oz moment happens in Bible study, a retreat, a healing service or a prayer meeting. The Holy Spirit works in our hearts in whatever setting he can get our attention. Conversion always brings repentance, frees us and changes us forever.
Others in our parish shared their Oz moment stories with us. They had a hunger to learn more about their faith and to “manifest charisms and discern vocations.” Years ago I filled out a charisms questionnaire where I scored high in the charism of discernment and low in mercy! I’m still working on that. Developing our natural gifts to serve God’s people in a supernatural way is just as exciting as discovering new gifts of the Spirit. Mothers already have a head start on the gifts of teaching, intercessory prayer, administration and hospitality. When God provides a challenge grander than our human efforts we’ll have what we need. As Sherry says, “ Charisms tend to show up at the mysterious intersection where the Church and the world cry out to God in need and a disciple takes up his or her call to follow Jesus.”
Growing spiritually with those who “clamor to discern God’s call because they long to live it” naturally leads to evangelization. We have really good news to share about our Catholic Faith and about our personal faith relationship with God. Joining with other disciples, we saw Bible studies, a couples share group, Adoration and Pro-life ministries spring up like flowers in the desert. With more and more Spirit-filled parishioners, we experienced Sherry’s assertion that, “The presence of a significant number of disciples changes everything” in the parish.
Using our gifts to make normal intentional disciples the true norm in our parishes is an exciting challenge we all share. It’s so worth taking the risk to foster Oz moments of discipleship in others.
Read comments on this blog and other blogs on this topic on CatholicMom.com Lawn Chair Catechism, Chapter 4.
(© 2013 Nancy H C Ward)