In Christian communities when people want to know if we follow Jesus Christ and His teachings, they’ll ask the question, “Are you a believer?” While this is a gateway to open a conversation about faith, I’m not so sure it goes deep enough to fully acknowledge what it means to “follow” Christ; especially through our Catholic faith. The better question would be, “Are you a disciple of Jesus Christ?”
This week’s readings give us our instructions beyond merely trusting in God, but go further to answer the invitation to become a disciple. As Catholic Christians we are not only called to have faith, we are told to put that faith into action by living out what we believe in the world. In the book of James, we find the two components necessary to get to Heaven: “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” (Jas 2:17-18)
During part of my own life, I was afraid to take my faith from private prayer, where I was comfortable, to putting into action. I worried what other people would think of me if I let others know that the reason I was doing good deeds was because of my faith. Maybe they might make fun of me or ridicule me for being a “holy roller.” However, it wasn’t till I started letting people in on my little secret that I began to inspire other people to have the same type of relationship with God that I had. It was me living life as a disciple which was so vital to converting hearts and being who I was called to be.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us, “By virtue of their prophetic mission, lay people “are called… to be witnesses to Christ in all circumstances and at the very heart of the community of mankind” (CCC #942) Each and every one of us by our baptism is given this mission. The work of discipleship is not only for Priests, Deacons and Religious. It is the call we have to be the disciples needed so the church can grow, souls can be saved and we can obtain eternal life with God.
Understanding why we believe what we believe is vital to our growth in everything we do and are. Recognizing the beauty of the Eucharist or even identifying the gifts of the Spirit in Confirmation are an aspect to the Sacramental grace we receive as Catholics. However, knowing what their offering means for us to become disciples long after Mass and youth ministry gatherings are over is where we become the church to share a message of Christ’s love with the world. Be the disciple God is calling you to be. Then, just like Paul, Barnabas and Christ Himself, you will be the authentic instrument who leads others to the Father.