The Conditions of Discipleship
The Navigators (Vol. 11, No. 1) in its article, “Church Discipleship” said: “A disciple continues in the Word, loves others, bears fruit, and puts Christ first.”
Today’s gospel reading contains a saying of Jesus which belongs to the so-called “hard sayings:” He summons the people: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take his cross and follow me,” (8:34). Three command words for us to remember: Deny, Take and Follow. These command words if put together it means discipleship. And a disciple of Christ is one who: believes His doctrine, rests on His sacrifice, imbibes His spirit, and imitates His example (Matt. 10:24; Luke 14:26, 27, 33; John 6:69).
There are three requirements of becoming a disciple of Jesus. First is to deny oneself. Jesus states very clearly that in order to follow Him we must deny our very own self. Self-denial becomes meaningful only if it is accompanied with passionate and generous love for Christ. This implies obeying God and not our own way. Jesus also asks us to be ready to lose one’s life for others; a sort of a reminder that nobody lives for himself/herself. If our desire to follow Christ does not burn in our hearts, then the cross we carry becomes very heavy and unbearable. Are we determined to follow Him?
Second is to take up our cross. Is Jesus delight in suffering? But there are some thoughtful Christians who have reflected on suffering and have understood well what Jesus is telling us. In his book Models of Faith. Biblical Spirituality for Our Time, Carlos Valles said: “Suffering can weaken faith, but that is not always so. It can even strengthen faith and lead closer to God, it can mellow tempers and deepen life, and it often does so in the secret therapy of man’s lonely mind,” (p. 99).
When we are asked ‘what is our cross, we end up making a list of our own trials, difficulties and hardships we face in life. But what is really our cross? Fr. Domie Guzman (Sabbath May 16, 2008) said that our cross is the Cross Jesus asks us to carry. The Cross we are asked to carry is the Cross we have to have to follow Jesus. Therefore, our Cross is the one single difficulty or trial we have to endure for the moment as a sign of our faithfulness and commitment to Jesus, His Church and His Gospel. Other hardships or difficulties maybe inflicted by us or the other people as consequences of our wrong choices and priorities or pure harassment which is man-made and not willed by the Lord.
The Prairie Overcomer also added that the yoke and the cross are twin symbols of Christian experience. The cross speaks of leaving the world for Christ; the yoke speaks of learning in the world from Christ. The one speaks of sacrifice; the other service. The disciple must bear both; he cannot choose to take one and leave the other.
Third is to follow Him, that is, to fix one’s eyes and heart to God and His will. “Follow me,” one priest said in his homily, leads us to walk in the footsteps of Christ in every circumstance of life. It means to embrace the cross and to carry it lovingly, climbing Calvary each day alongside Jesus. The cross is our admission pass, our boarding ticket, the key that unlocks the gates of heaven.
At the end let us reflect this text message I received from a friend of mine. It says: “Life without Jesus is lonely, insecure, full of doubts, empty. But life with Jesus is lively, inspiring, full of hope and enthusiasm.”