Archbishop Paul Coakley has recently published a pastoral letter, "Go Make Disciples." We could be forgiven for asking, what does that mean exactly?
A good definition of discipleship is found in the General Directory for Catechesis. It reads:
Faith is a personal encounter with Jesus Christ, making of oneself a disciple of him. This demands a permanent commitment to think like him, to judge like him and to live as he lived. In this way the believer unites himself to the community of disciples and appropriates the faith of the Church. This "Yes" to Jesus Christ, who is the fullness of the revelation of the Father, is twofold: a trustful abandonment to God and a loving assent to all that he has revealed to us. This is possible only by means of the action of the Holy Spirit. "By faith man freely commits his entire self completely to God, making the full submission of his intellect and will to God who reveals, and willingly assenting to the Revelation given by him".
"To believe has thus a double reference: to the person and to the truth; to the truth, by trust in the person who bears witness to it". Faith involves a change of life, a "metanoia", that is a profound transformation of mind and heart; it causes the believer to live that conversion. This transformation of life manifests itself at all levels of the Christian's existence: in his interior life of adoration and acceptance of the divine will, in his action, participation in the mission of the Church, in his married and family life; in his professional life; in fulfilling economic and social responsibilities.
Faith and conversion arise from the "heart", that is, they arise from the depth of the human person and they involve all that he is. By meeting Jesus Christ and by adhering to him the human being sees all of his deepest aspirations completely fulfilled. He finds what he had always been seeking and he finds it super-abundantly.
This kind of definition is something to which we can compare our own experience. Does this sound like you? Does it sound like what's happening in your parish?
If not, let the Office of New Evangelization help you.
Back in the day, Jesus asked his followers, "Who do people say that I am?" His followers offered a number of answers--maybe a prophet, maybe a reincarnation of Elijah, or maybe John the Baptist come back to life. "And you--who do YOU say that I am?" Jesus asked them. Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of God."
Today, that question is still relevant. Who do people of our day think Jesus was?
Was he just a good man? Maybe a wise man, like Confucius, or Dr. Phil? Or was he a prophet, like Elijah, or Jeremiah? Was he just a good moral teacher? Was he, like the Hindus would say, just another god like all the others? Or was he the Only True God?
Every adult owes it to himself to form a reasonable opinion about Jesus. Maybe you just take it for granted. Or maybe you've never really thought much about it.
C.S. Lewis once wrote a book entitled Mere Christianity, in which he challenges the idea, common in our culture, that Jesus was just a good man, or just a wise moral teacher -- a good example with no absolute claim on reality or ourselves. That option, C.S. Lewis shows us, is not open to us. He writes:
Then comes the real shock. Among these Jews there suddenly turns up a man who goes about talking as if He was God. He claims to forgive sins. He says He has always existed. He says He is coming to judge the world at the end of time. Now let us get this clear. Among Pantheists like the Indians, anyone might say that he was a part of God, or one with God: there would be nothing very odd about it. But this man, since he was a Jew, could not mean that kind of God. God, in their language, meant the Being outside the world Who had made it and was infinitely different from anything else. And when you have grasped that, you will see that what this man said was, quite simply, the most shocking thing that has ever been uttered by human lips.
How does the death and resurrection of Jesus make it possible for us to be saved from spiritual death that would otherwise be the consequence of original sin?
The answer to this question may have been answered best by C. S. Lewis, in his book Mere Christianity. In Chapter 4, "The Perfect Penitent", he writes:
We are told that Christ was killed for us, that His death has washed out our sins, and that by dying He disabled death itself. That is the formula. That is Christianity. That is what has to be believed. Any theories we build up as to how Christ's death did all this are, in my view, quite secondary: mere plans or diagrams to be left alone if they do not help us, and, even if they do help us, not to be confused with the thing itself. All the same, some of these theories are worth looking at.
The one most people have heard is the one about our being let off because Christ volunteered to bear a punishment instead of us. Now on the face of it that is a very silly theory. If God was prepared to let us off, why on earth did He not do so? And what possible point could there be in punishing an innocent person instead? None at all that I can see, if you are thinking of punishment in the police-court sense. On the other hand, if you think of a debt, there is plenty of point in a person who has some assets paying it on behalf of someone who has not. Or if you take "paying the penalty," not in the sense of being punished, but in the more general sense of "footing the bill," then, of course, it is a matter of common experience that, when one person has got himself into a hole, the trouble of getting him out usually falls on a kind friend.