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Listening like a disciple


There are two categories of people on Twitter – those called “followers” and those called “following”. Is that what discipleship means?

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Having tried to master Twitter in a vain attempt to become relevant (!) I was distressed the other day to read in the paper that Twitter presents a ‘…world where aging baby boomers impart their revolutionary ideals on the new generation’. What about pre-baby boomers! The article also mentioned that a certain political commentator has 149,000 followers. That is about 2000 times more than the number of ‘followers’ I have!

Some people seem to think that being a disciple simply means being a follower. That is true if it involves your way of life, but simply being a follower is not enough.

Trotting along to Mass without being open to it changing your heart and mind and will is not enough; you remain a follower, not a disciple.

In its Latin origins, the word ‘disciple’ means a student, someone who learns from a teacher. We know that it is possible to be a follower but not a learner.

Some followers do so in a mindless way, not putting their brain into gear, nor engaging their hearts, nor enhancing their better values. One sees a string of bikies, and asks how much thinking is going on. Some people will follow a football club passionately, but it does not affect their way of life.

Some people will follow a religious fanatic, and give up the use of their own judgement. Some will follow a film star like Elvis Presley, and try to take on his identity rather than their own. Some just follow the fashions in their dress style, something that never engages the heart. Hitler created an army of Nazi disciples, men and women attracted by lies and hatred and power, not engaging what is good and Christ-like in them, but the sad reverse.

Discipleship with Jesus is a learning, and is often a slow process. Nobody is born a saint. Nobody becomes a saint overnight, except in the case of a martyr. It is a question of allowing ourselves to be moulded by the words and love of Christ, seeing Him in the faces of those around us.

Look at our parents, look at the Religious Sisters and Brothers we know, look at the priests who are important to us. They grew into being the disciples they are through listening and loving, over time.

We should not be too disheartened when we fail. The important thing is to get up again, as Jesus did on the way to Calvary. It is not the falling; it is the getting up again.

The words of the hymn of John Talbot are ones we sing each morning on the pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Open my eyes, Lord, help me to see your face. Open my ears, Lord, help me to hear your voice. Open my heart, Lord, help me to love like you.

Unlike the mindless followers listed above, we pray that our eyes, our ears and our heart be opened, over time, so that we might hear the Word of God and do it. The Lord has given us an ear to listen like a student, a learner of life. He said he wants to give us life to the full. And as we open our eyes, our ears and our heart, we also open our hands to do His work in the world He loves so much.


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