If you asked the average Christian if he or she is a disciple of Jesus, I think the answer would be "of course I am." But how many of us really know what that means? Or what it entails?
Disciple means student. Jesus is the divine teacher/rabbi and we are his students. Jesus' last words in Matthew's Gospel give us a final "homework assignment." "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you" (Mt. 28:19-20).
We Catholics make the Sign of the Cross thousands of times in our lifetimes. Do we realize that we are quoting Jesus directly when we do that? Do we realize that it is part of Jesus' final homework assignment to us? Do we realize that we, the members of his mystical body - the Church - are to become teachers to all nations now? Do we realize that we are required to make more disciples for Jesus?
Remember your school days? I am sure you know how homework assignments go. Students just love making excuses for not doing them. The same goes for us, I am afraid. How often I see Catholics, even Catholics in positions of leadership, exempt themselves from Jesus' homework assignment to spread the Gospel. Other things often just seem to be more pressing. And there is that old warped-logic standby that many Catholics use to exempt themselves from doing homework for Jesus; it goes like this - since the Church and the Gospel will ultimately prevail (which is true, of course), that means I can keep Jesus all to myself and never really share Him or His teachings with anyone. Let someone else do that.
Another common excuse is to focus on the results, rather than the sharing, of the Gospel. Jesus never promised we would see the results in our earthly lifetime. Desiring to see results here and now is a sure sign of a lack of faith in God's eternal plan.
Pope Benedict XVI expressed it most profoundly: "The faith cannot endure by itself in the world. It is not automatically transmitted to men's hearts but always has to be announced. And the announcement of the faith, in order to be effective, must come from a heart that believes, that hopes, that loves, a heart that adores Christ and believes in the power of the Holy Spirit. "The Church, each one of us, must bring the world the good news that Jesus is Lord, the One in Whom God's closeness and love for each man and woman became flesh.
"May we, then, show increasing commitment to renewing evangelization, which is a task not just for the few but for all the members of the Church" (13 June 2011, St. John Lateran Cathedral).
No more excuses. It is time to do our homework. Share your discipleship today.