What is a disciple? I’m pretty sure we all have an image of a disciple in our heads. In my head I see the Apostle’s, a rag-tag group of unwashed and unshaven men following an itinerant preacher in Ancient Israel. Or perhaps today we might imagine some sort of missionary going door to door trying to share the Good News of Christ’s salvation, or perhaps, we could envision just an ordinary person who claims to follow Christ going about his or her day not looking all that different than everyone else around them.
At its essence though a disciple is someone who engages in an active relationship with Christ, one who sits at his feet and learns from him, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.” Matt 11:29
So a disciple is someone who is bound to Christ, follows and learns from him. Clearly, just because you follow Christ doesn’t mean you’re a disciple; just look at Judas. So we need more than this if we are to be true disciples of Christ.
What else did Christ command of his followers? “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” Matt 28:19. A disciple therefore is in relationship with Christ and shares this relationship with others, we could say, they bear God to others to invite them into relationship with Christ.
So a true disciple of Christ is in relationship with Him and obeys his commands to go out and make disciples of all nations. A friend of mine shared with me the other day some thoughts she had on the Ascension. She said it was kind of funny how Jesus commands them to go and evangelize and they just stand there and stare at the sky as he ascends into heaven. So an angel comes down and commands them to go. So what do they do? They go back to the upper room. So finally, God sends the Holy Spirit and they are transformed and go out and literally change the world. It took the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit and also their cooperation, their yes… their amen… their “Let it be done.”
And why, what is all this for? It’s simple really, what is anything for? What is the purpose of all creating things? As it says in Eph 1:11-12 “In him we were also chosen, destined in accord with the purpose of the One who accomplishes all things according to the intention of his will, so that we might exist for the praise of his glory, we who first hoped in Christ.”
Everything that exists, and the entire will of the Father is in, through, and for the Son. We exist to praise, glorify, and magnify God’s glory. To do this is to do the will of the Father. To be holy, to be set apart. That is what the word “holy” means after all, to be set apart for God. It’s the reason we consecrate our churches, the altars, the vessels, and the hands that do the consecrating. To consecrate means “to make sacred with”, or to make holy, to be set apart. It would be terrible sacrilege to drink beer out of the chalice used at Mass. And so we too should be holy, set apart by God, to exist for the praise of his glory.
OK, so how do we get there? Well, looking at all of life, nothing is done on our own. In everything we do, we need others to help us and teach us. So, I think a first step is to find a teacher, a role model, one who is a true disciple who can show us the way. And throughout history there have been many true and good disciples (the saints), but ultimately each of them, as holy as they are and as amazing and awesome as they are, are only copies of the original, the first disciple, our Mother, Mary.
Look at her life:
Overshadowed by the Holy Spirit:
Luke 1:35: “And the angel said to her in reply, “The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.”
She gave her yes, her amen, her “Let it be done”:
Luke 1:38 “Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”
She then immediately goes to Elizabeth and bears the Good News to her relative; she is the first and truest “God-bearer”:
Luke 1:39-40 “During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.”
She learned from her Son:
Luke 2:19: “And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.”
She exists for the praise of his glory:
Luke 1:46-47: “And Mary said, ‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my savior.’ “
If we are to be true disciples, our best hope is to be like the first disciple, the prototype, there can be none better. Fly to Mary, our Mother and ask for her intercession. Pray to her often, love her with all your heart. As St. Padre Pio said, “Never be afraid to love Mary too much. You can never love her more than her own Son.” After all, who are we to disobey Scripture? Remember, the true disciple does the Father’s will. And as it says in Luke 2:48 “Behold, from now will all ages call me blessed.” Mary says this just after her cousin Elizabeth, moved by the Holy Spirit proclaims in Luke 1:41-42, “Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, ‘Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.’ ”
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen!