Discipleship, Leadership

In last week’s bulletin, we began looking at our parish priorities:

Outreach – Engagement – Discipleship – Leadership

We examined the first two: OUTREACH and ENGAGEMENT. If you missed them, they can be found here. We saw how these priorities are rooted in the mission that our Lord Jesus has given us (Mt 28.19) and that these priorities model how Jesus established and formed the Church. Following our outreach to others and our invitation to others to join us in engaging in the mission of the Church by simple and relatively easy actions, we then advance in our response to the Lord’s call.

DISCIPLESHIP. If the truth is to be told, while Jesus has certainly had his detractors over the years, he has always had plenty of fans! The problem is that Jesus neither wants nor needs fans! Jesus never asked anyone to be a fan. Rather, Jesus calls people to be disciples! A “Jesus Fan” is someone who likes Jesus and thinks he is nice, great, wonderful, special etc., but does not have an ongoing personal relationship and friendship with Jesus. A “Jesus Fan” does not have Jesus as part of his or her life. Jesus is very clear with those who wish to be his disciples – we must deny ourselves, pick up our cross and follow him each day (Lk 9.23). Now at first this may seem overwhelming and negative but Jesus assures us that whoever loses themselves for his sake will gain a better life, a better self. (Lk 9.24). Discipleship, life with Jesus, is not a diminished life but an enhanced life. Christian discipleship is not a life unfulfilled or deprived but a life of abundance (Jn 10.10). To be a disciple of Jesus is to see ourselves in a different way. It is to live in a different way. Who we are, how we think, what we choose, are done not according to our likes or whims but always in relation and in response to Jesus. It is not just WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) but it is WWJHMD – What Would Jesus Have Me Do! To be a disciple of Jesus is not just to listen and follow, it is to ACT! As a parish priority our goal is for all of us to deepen our relationship with the Lord and to actively follow him. To be a disciple is to conform our will to God’s will for us (Thy will be done!). In other words, we live our Catholic faith at church, at home, at work, in school, at play, in private, and in public! We are never NOT a disciple and our relationship with Jesus touches and directs all aspects of our lives. In doing so, we discover the joy that Jesus desires for each of us.

LEADERSHIP. When we experience the joy of discipleship and the abundant life that Jesus desires for us, we cannot keep this to ourselves. We want others to discover and have what we have! The gift that we have received we must also give as a gift! (Lk 6:38, 1 Pt 4.10). None of us have come to God on our own. We have all been led and guided to God with the help of others. Our task is to help lead others to God as well. Leadership cannot be taken for granted or abrogated. Jesus gave his Church leaders in Peter and the apostles. But the Pope and the Bishops, while successors to Peter and the Apostles, are not the only leaders in the Church. We each need to be leaders in our families and in the parish. Mothers and fathers rightly lead their children in faith. In the parish, we too need leaders, but leadership in the Church is not the same as leadership in the world. Because of our baptism in Christ, we share in his leadership role by our service to one another. As leaders in the family and in the parish, we are called to be servant leaders. Our leadership of guiding, forming, organizing, instructing, is not a domination of power but a ministry of service. On a practical level, just as Jesus continues his leadership in the Church through the hierarchy, in our parish Jesus continues his shepherding through those who respond to serve and to lead a bible study, head up a mission trip, teach in Youth Formation, train the altar servers, serve in the leadership of St. Monica’s, That Man Is You, the Women’s Club or the Knights of Columbus, or serve in Joseph’s Coat. Jesus calls upon his disciples to take on these leadership roles for the sake of the Church. Our parish is constantly in need of good servant leaders.

These priorities are priorities. This means we have lots to do but among our many tasks, we need to keep these four actions front and center. We each must embrace and practice them. As we do so we will be changed and so too will St. John Vianney parish. As we practice OUTREACH, ENGAGEMENT, DISCIPLESHIP and LEADERSHIP, we and others will also experience Living Faith, Changing Lives and Making a Difference!

In Pace Christi,
Fr. Troy