As we learn more and more about our faith, we start to understand that we are called not only to be spectators of the plan of salvation, but to be a part of it, to become a disciple.
The word, “disciple” (mathetes in Koine Greek) translates as “pupil,” or “student.” For Jesus, the disciple is more than a student, as we now understand that word. A disciple is a person who not only learns from the teacher, but who also becomes the continuation of the teacher for others. In the time of Jesus, disciples did not choose the teacher, but the teacher chose them. And when the teacher chooses them, they are called to follow him, so that they may learn from him. Being chosen and called indicates that the master or teacher (Rabbi) believes that those whom he calls have the potential to become like him. And if we consider the group who followed Jesus in the beginning, we know that they really did become the voice of their Teacher to the whole world.
We all are called to be disciples; it is precisely in this call that the Lord has put all of His faith in us. But since we are called to walk the path He walked, there are things that we should do. The disciple is called to follow Jesus. However, being a follower of Jesus is not the same as being a follower on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. It is more than just posting a “like,” a “comment” or a “share” of what Jesus did; no, it is to live one’s life in imitation and dedication. It means to become the teacher.
To follow Jesus is to walk behind Him, meaning that Jesus will be always with the disciples. It is He who gives us the strength we need to continue His work in the world.
In the Gospel today, Jesus invites us to take up our crosses, just as He did. Following Jesus entails making decisions that will not always receive universal acceptance; it is to deny ourselves of things that we want. The Lord is asking us to do so for the sake of the kingdom of God.
Before His Ascension, Jesus gave this commandment to his disciples: Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age (Mt 28,19-21).
The mission of the disciple is to make more disciples. The rationale for this is simple, as Saint Thomas Aquinas taught that “bonum est diffusivum sui” (Goodness always tends to spread). In that way, those who have known the goodness of the gospel desire that the whole world would be able to share the same joy. The way of making new disciples is not to teach them the commandments themselves, but how to live according to the commandments.
It is clear that we are called to be disciples, but since we are created with free will, it is always our decision to accept – or not – to became part of God’s plan of salvation. Every baptized person who does good is already a part of that plan. But the challenge for us is to ponder what else we can do to become more like our Teacher. . .and how we can become the very image of Jesus for others.