Chancery staff encouraged to spend time before Blessed Sacrament
April 17, 2024
Thursday April 18th: Drawn by the Father
April 18, 2024

Forming disciples: A first step

To progress to the Church of our dream, the most urgent task is to have third- and fourth-level disciples leading in all its parts: family, school, parish, religious and ecclesial communities.

Only a disciple can form disciples. Only a third- or fourth-level disciple can start calling people to mystical union and Koinonia—the fellowship of disciples who are members of Christ’s Body.

If you were to ask: ‘What would change if third-level disciples led the Church in all its parts?’ I would say, ‘Everything’. Leadership—decision-making and taking—would automatically be a matter of discernment of God’s will in things little and great.

Ephesians 5:1–2 is our starting point: “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

This is the foundational call of the Christian leader in the family, school, community, or parish.  A little later in Ephesians 5, a much-neglected verse addressed to husbands and wives reads: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (5:21).

The call to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ is meant for leaders at all levels—family, school, groups, communities, and parishes. We put Christ’s will first, seeing it as the highest good. The style of a maximum leader, one who is large and in charge, leaves no room for seeking God’s will.

 

Called to humility

Here, we must name another obstacle in our synodal path: pride, the first sin—we want to be like God (Gen 3:5). The only cure to this ancient curse is union with Christ in a most radical way.

St Paul is struggling with this as he writes to the Philippians:

Therefore, if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others (Phil 2:1–4).

These are the basic building blocks for the Church of our dreams. Meditate on this passage for a while before proceeding. It starts with being united to Christ. St Paul is speaking about a level three or level four leader who, like Christ, is self-sacrificial. Again, this requires putting the other above oneself and Christ above all.

St Paul goes on in his eloquent best to speak about the mindset of the Christian, and more so the leader. He says, “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus” (Phil 2:5).

This is vital. There is a Christian mindset, and we need to understand and teach it, and form others—leaders and people—in this mindset. He continues:

[He] who, being in very nature of God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (6–11).

The Christian mindset, which entails humble service and self-emptying, putting the other first and Christ above all others, is also a call to conversion and obedience to Christ.

The question we must ask now, and it is the most fundamental question of our exploration, is why, with all our prayer individually and in our family, school, parish, and community, are we not moving more steadily toward discipleship?

According to the diagnosis, during the first rounds of synod synthesis 2022, we have not been adopting the mindset of Christ, so we have been hurting one another with unchristian leadership styles.

 

Called to holiness

From this discipleship perspective, we can now reflect on the three conversions to which we are called if we are to journey towards our dream Church: Obedience to Jesus, Sensus Fidei and Co-responsibility. Going to the depths of discipleship requires reorienting our minds rather than conforming to the thinking of the present age (Rom 12:1ff).

This is a significant paradigm shift that we all must make. There is no synodal Church or Church of our dreams without reorienting our minds through a pilgrimage to discipleship at all levels, by all leaders, and the whole people of God.

Because God is love, to do God’s will is the most loving outcome for our life. Obedience to God’s will brings us into this inner relationship of love that fosters human flourishing.

There is one commandment—love of God and love of neighbour (cf Mk 12:29–31). To live in God and have God live in us is to move to a new perspective on all reality—God’s perspective.

From this perspective, we recognise the divine interconnection between us and all others in the mystical Body of Christ. Mystical union calls us to seek God through the voices, faces, needs and joys of others. We listen deeply to others to hear the voice of God (Synodality).

Hearing that voice, we gather the fragments of God’s Word to us, with all the care that the priest gathers the fragments of the Eucharist after Communion (discernment and Conversation in the Spirit).

His Word is His love, and it is precious. So, Sensus Fidei leads to a devotion of love in which we listen to others through the ear of our heart so we can listen to God.

If obedience to God draws us into the mystical Body of Christ as co-heirs with Him in mission, how could mission, entrusted to the mystical Body of Christ, be anything but co-responsible?

If each disciple is anointed with holy Chrism at Baptism and called to mystical union, then each disciple is co-responsible for the mission.

Synodality only makes sense if we interpret the Church through the mystical tradition where each disciple is called to mystical union with the Trinity, actively seeking to know, celebrate and live their faith.

As Vatican II in Lumen Gentium, Chapter 5 states: “The classes and duties of life are many, but holiness is one—that sanctity which is cultivated by all who are moved by the Spirit of God, and who obey the voice of the Father and worship God the Father in Spirit and in truth” (41).

Discipleship is the key to synodality as it is the key to holiness.