“If you were on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” This question struck me seeing it from a huge billboard along the city’s main road. Amidst a busy day, it got me thinking how I am as a follower of Jesus. Could someone, who does not know me personally, tell that I am Christian?
Over 2,000 years ago, during Jesus’ earthly ministry, he called ordinary people to be his disciples. He invited a tax collector, fishermen, and individuals who were neither popular nor held high positions in the society. As disciples, they left their respective occupations behind and went out of their comfort zones to witness Jesus fulfill his mission. The following of Jesus grew bigger as he performed miracles such as healing the sick, bringing the dead back to life, feeding the crowd with the multiplication of loaves and fish, and many others that only the power of God can make happen. Those who built a relationship with Jesus, witnessed his works, and believed in his resurrection, later on began speaking about him even outside Galilee, Judea and Jerusalem, and throughout all corners of the world. In the age of Christian persecution, they were the ones who put their earthly lives at stake to preach the Good News. In Catholic dogma, many of them who played a significant role in evangelization were persecuted (by the world), but were eventually reunited with Jesus in eternity – them whom we now call the saints and the holy ones. Though they came from different walks of life, they had one thing in common: they gave up their previous lives to follow Jesus.
In the gospel of Luke, upon their journey to Jerusalem, Jesus spoke of the essence of discipleship to his followers. He says that, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.” To enter eternity entails for one to make a radical choice to give everything. Words are not enough; deeds are required (CCC 546). Leave the past behind and focus on the destination. To be Christ’s disciple is to “put on the new man, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness, putting away falsehood” (Eph 4:24-25). To be Christ’s follower is to mirror his characteristics as human – selfless, God-centered. No malice, envy, deceit, prejudice or slander in his words and deeds. To be Christ’s follower is to have a special relationship with the Lord.
Giving up everything and being a ‘new man’ is not an easy task. However, it is not as complicated as we might perceive it to be. As one priest would always stress, just fix your eyes on the Prize! Focus on Jesus. “God does not call the equipped, He equips the called.” God’s grace transforms us into someone we never thought we could be. We cannot be Christ’s disciples by our own pursuit. We need the Holy Spirit. Our Lord, through the Catholic Church, provides us a guide on the essential duties of being a disciple of Christ:
St. Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, simplifies these duties to: serve one another through love. We earned freedom in Jesus, and we are invited to follow him as his disciples. As simply as it was put together, discipleship is servanthood through love. This is what sets Christians apart from others.
Unlike in the times of Jesus’ earthly ministry, the call for discipleship may no longer come in the physical invitation of Jesus. Rather, it may come in the form of life calling where discernment of the will of God is inevitable and important. It may be a call to give up comfort in order to proclaim the Gospel, a call to enter a religious order, a call to feed the hungry, a call to parenthood, a call to single-blessedness, a call to provide care for the mentally ill, orphans or elderly, a call to lead a country, or any task that will magnify the love of God. Whatever it is that each of us is called to fulfill, as Christians, we are altogether invited to do one thing: serve one another through love.
If we will be convicted of being “Christ-wanna be’s” then so be it.
Dear Jesus, I cannot thank you enough for your invitation to follow you. You have shown us an example of how to fit to the kingdom of God by the way you lived your life here on earth. May you always remind us to never get distracted by the pleasures of this world, but instead consciously put God at the center of our lives everyday. Help us fulfill our mission as your disciples by serving one another through love. Amen.