|I was content to follow Jesus to the edge of the beach,|
but not to follow him up the road to Jerusalem.
In this chapter, Weddell addresses the final two thresholds of conversion: Seeking and Discipleship. Both are active states of being, but are divided only by that final "Yes! I will follow you!" to Jesus. Weddell discusses ways to encourage seekers to take that final step to becoming disciples such as encouraging acts of mercy and providing a variety of different types of prayer to foster that real, solid relationship that discipleship ultimately brings.
Weddell asks if we are ready to acknowledge that some leaders in our diocese or parish might not actually be disciples of Jesus. My answer to that is a big, "WELL YES!"
If you've read any of the rest of my posts in this series, you know that I was born and raised a Catholic. I came up through 12 years of the best "Catholic" education money could buy. And, yet, I left the Church at 18. Why? Because the people I encountered, who were teaching me what it was to be a disciple, had no idea what being a disciple entailed! Or maybe they did and just simply could not make themselves give in.
Following Jesus would have meant putting down their nets of tangled ideas and personal opinions on the shore, and doing things God's way. Still today, when I meet those people, I am struck by their absolute refusal to bend their necks to God's will for their lives. They prefer, instead, to buck his yoke and carry their own much heavier burdens, angry and resentful every step of the way. It makes me angry when I consider that they have passed this ideology along to me, my classmates, my friends and my family members. But ultimately, it makes me sad.
It makes me sad to the point of tears when I see them flinging their weight against immovable burdens, just like I have for so many years. Those burdens are so much easier if we allow Jesus into our lives in a very real way. And here's where the tough part comes: I have to forgive them. I have to pray for them and I have to put my own nets down and be a light to them. Much easier said than done.
I am just now, just in the past 18 months (to the day) on a journey that is taking me some place closer to Jesus. I spent my 20s and 30s learning about God. now I am learning who He is (information vs. formation). I needed that information in order to make the formation work, but, instead of getting it when I was a kid or a teen, I had to go find it myself. Like Thomas, I had to see those nail prints and put my hand in his side. I had to know before I could believe.
This is not the first time I've been invited to follow Jesus. No, far from it. But this past year and a half is the first time I followed him further than the edge of the sand on the beach. I wasn't prepared to walk that road to Jerusalem with him. I wasn't prepared to accept the small sufferings that he gave me and, instead, I made much larger, harder ones for myself. It's funny, the crosses we make for ourselves are always much heavier than the ones God gives us.
So, now, after completing two-thirds of this series, I realized I have been called. I lead a group every week in prayer. I coach them and teach them to hear and think about and pray the words they sing, but apparently, that is not enough for God. He has another idea.
A few weeks back, when we talked about Grace and The Great Commission, the combox discussion revolved around what kind of catechesis was necessary. I told the commenter that the Missionary Servants of the Word Sisters had a program that they ran in our parish that was working wonders in our Spanish-speaking community. We have increased our one Spanish Mass to three comfortably full Spanish Masses each week over the last five years. It has really lit a fire in our Spanish-speaking community! But, those classes have never been offered in English at our Parish. After reflecting on it for the next two weeks, I realized that it needed to happen.
I didn't want to get involved, though. I'm a busy woman, after all, you know. I wanted someone else to do it. I hinted to others in the parish that it would be a great thing to do. They all nodded politely and smiled. "Oh, please, Lord, pick someone else," I thought.
I fought God on this one tooth and nail. I was not going to leave the beach. I wanted to still have my eyes on those nets, I guess. But, you can only ignore God for so long. He keeps tapping you on the shoulder until he has your undivided attention. Finally, I knew, I was supposed to do this. So, finally, I asked Sister and we started the ball rolling.
For me, this really is jumping off into the raging waters. I know how Peter must have felt when he hopped out of that boat to walk across the water to Jesus. But if I can just keep my eyes on Jesus, maybe I won't notice the wind and the waves.