When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:13-19)
To many, words such as “disciple” tend to frighten or to instill a feeling of “not me.” After all, to many, “disciple” is something reserved for scripture.
But he point is that, right now, and at every moment of our lives, we are being called to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.
It truly is a path that we, as followers of His way need to respond. If we cannot accept the call then we need to peer deep inside and ask “why?”
To answer the question, we need to define our terms.
If we are to be disciples of Jesus, we have to allow the things that we believe to influence the way that we live, the decisions that we make. If we cannot see any difference between ourselves and others in the way that we love, in the way that we forgive, in the way that we vote, in the way that we use our money, then we are not really disciples of Jesus. We are certainly not following the example of Peter and Paul.
To follow Christ means that we are willing to live to a higher standard, we are willing to be different because of what we believe
Peter and Paul were humble men, one a fisherman, the other a tent maker. Neither of them was adequately prepared to serve as disciples. Moreover, they did not start out very well. Peter denied Christ. Paul persecuted the early Church. It is the highest irony that God would choose such week and fallible people to begin the Church. But that irony is our hope. That irony reminds us that God does not choose us because we are so capable, but because God knows that we can become capable with God’s help. Our weaknesses can be overcome by God’s strength.
When Jesus invited the disciples to take nothing, to not weigh themselves down, we see a call to leave behind all that ordinarily holds us back, weighs us down, consumes us, or blocks our path. It’s not about giving up things but rather it’s all about weighing what it is that means so much to us.
When we take the first step on the journey, we will find that the journey is an excellent occasion to free oneself of anger and mourning, to take a deep breath with respect to the relationships that consume us without bearing fruit.
Taking nothing also becomes an excellent occasion to learn to ask, to allow life to care for us, and to discover the secret providence hidden in the order of things that teach us not to act like we are in control and not to believe that we can be self-sufficient. We must learn not to depend on ourselves, which means remembering to create room, even emptiness, within us so that another can be welcomed there.
During the journey we will encounter those who are unwilling to make room in their lives, those who are afraid to share, those who have been injured or deceived be previous pilgrims, those who feel offended by the invitation to change that a pilgrimage itself suggests. The journey teaches us to accept failures and closed doors that are inevitably part of life. It’s teaching us how to live life in a way that pleases Him and life continually sends us out every day.
God chose weak people like Peter and Paul and us to be disciples, but that is what God does. In doing so, God removes any excuse. We cannot say, “It is impossible for me to live according to God’s standard.” God can make it possible. God will make it possible. With the same high expectation and irony that accompanied the call of Peter and Paul, God says to us, “Follow me.”
Prayer of The Day
“Lord Jesus, increase my faith in your redeeming love and power so that I may always recognize your abiding presence with me. Give me courage and strength to face every difficulty, trial, and temptation with trust in your saving help and guiding presence. Help me follow you.”
The invitation to follow Him as a disciple is an opportunity to break from whatever is blocking us, whatever is holding us back. And in general, that which drives us to break from our bonds and set out is a desire.
The journey begins with a desire: a desire that is never even completely clear to us. Desire is always determination mixed with uncertainty. It is a little like Abraham’s experience having been invited by God to leave his father’s house behind and set out for an uncertain destiny, and yet, it is precisely there that Abraham’s life finally begins. So too must our desire to follow Jesus. Stepping out in faith, knowing that He is there to both support and sustain us.