“Into His Likeness”: columns will explore how to grow as a disciple

Welcome back to the Disciple’s Corner. This column is sponsored jointly by the archdiocese’s Faith Formation Division and The Witness. Its purpose is to help teachers and catechists, parents, grandparents, and guardians – actually, all of us – reflect on the challenges of being disciples of Jesus Christ as we experience him present to us in the Catholic Christian tradition.

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This year we will be reflecting on “Into His Likeness” by Edward Sri (Ignatius Press, 2017), the book chosen by the Faith Formation Division for study by faith formation leaders throughout the archdiocese. Sri is the author of several books, the founder of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, and professor of theology at the Augustine Institute in Colorado.

In addition to my reflections, we will also be reading reflections from other individuals, many graduates of the archdiocese’s Impact program, chosen by the Faith Formation Division.

To be a disciple is to be a follower, or perhaps a companion — one who travels with a master, learning and growing in the process into a person who reflects the nature, values and vision of the master.

The goal of a disciple, Dr. Sri writes, isn’t merely to learn the master’s teachings, but to imitate the way he lives – the way he prays, works, trusts in God, helps the poor, lives in relationship, and serves people. “It implies movement and transformation as the disciple deepens his friendship with Christ and becomes ever more like him.”

What we learn in this process of walking with the master is two things: a better understanding of ourselves, with all of our faults and failures, and a better appreciation for how we could be, if we continue growing as a disciple. This awareness leads not to guilt and discouragement, but to hope and expectation.

We are all imperfect, unfinished and sinful, and for most of us it will take a lifetime of transformation to become the saints we are capable of becoming. But God is apparently infinitely patient and unimaginably merciful.

Here it is worth remembering Jesus’ conversation with Peter, which Sri recounts in his introduction.

Three times Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me?” The first two times he uses a word for love which means total, unconditional, unselfish love; the third time he changes to a word which is more like ordinary human love, imperfect and limited. Only then can Peter respond in the affirmative.

Jesus does not change his expectation, Sri reminds us, “but he does lower himself to meet Peter where he is. He accepts what Peter can offer.”

I think this suggests that the call to discipleship is not only “Come follow me,” but just as much “Can I walk with you?”

What do you think?

Pray and Reflect

Use one or more of the following questions for personal reflection, group discussion or private journaling:

  • On a scale of 1 (low) to 5 (high) rate how aware you are of walking with Christ and Christ walking with you. How would you have rated yourself five years ago?
  • How and when have you experienced walking with Christ as a disciple? How and when have you experienced God’s patience and mercy? Have your experiences led to guilt and discouragement or hope and expectation? How do we help our students, children and grandchildren become more aware of these disciple experiences?
  • I think being called to discipleship means …

Join the Conversation

Add your comments to this week’s discussion at http://bit.do/disciples-corner.

Dave Cushing is director of adult faith formation for the Catholic parishes in Waterloo.

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