What is a Christian? Numerous saints, theologians and spiritual writers tell us that a Christian is a disciple of Jesus Christ. The gospels and the writings of the early Christians would suggest that discipleship is a state of being. Let’s unpack what’s involved in being an earnest and thoughtful disciple.
When Jesus asked the two disciples of John the Baptist, who were following him, what they were looking for, they asked him where he was staying – John 1:36-39. Jesus invited them to come and see, and they remained with him all that day. The image offered here in John’s Gospel is that of remaining, staying, abiding with Jesus. At the Last Supper, on the night before he died, Jesus invited his disciples to “Abide with me,” He said it as if it were the gold standard of discipleship.
To abide with him means something more than periodic or even frequent encounters with him. He invited them to be with him continuously, to reside and remain with him all the time. He invited them to a continuous and permanent relationship. In the world of Jesus, to be a disciple, or the student of a Rabbi, was to live in the same atmosphere and breathing the same air as the Master. There was nothing interrupted or intermittent about it. The disciple spent his or her time looking and listening without interruption to everything their Master said and did.
We need to think a little today about discipleship as an atmosphere of heart and mind, a state of awareness. A person becomes a follower of Christ in order to be changed, so that he or she experiences life in a changed way. Part of the changed way of seeing the world is a sense of expectancy. The follower who hangs out with Jesus day in and day out takes it for granted that something is about to break through – a new slant on Christ, on life, on herself or himself as a believer.
Christians today need to plumb daily the stories of Jesus in the gospels, as they search for the divine love that abides in every part of him. Like a birdwatcher, they need to be poised and alert as they ponder and pray over Jesus’ words like, “God so loved the world that he sent his only Son….” and “I came that you might have life….” or “Blessed are the poor….” The twelfth century theologian, Guerric of Igny, once compared the pregnancy of Mary with the Scriptures that are ever- pregnant with Jesus.
Fr. QQ 10/16/18