As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him. He walked along from there and saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. He called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him. (Matthew ‘4:18-21).
When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” (Luke 19:5)
The Gospels describe how Jesus called his Apostles, Zacchaeus, and many others to be his disciples (Matthew 4:18-21; Luke 19:5). A previous article, “The Call to be Disciples as Catholic Men,” described how Jesus has also called each of us as Catholic men to be his disciples. Do you believe you have been called to be a disciple of Jesus? Before answering this question, it is important to first consider the cost of being one as described by Jesus.
Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:23)
“If any one comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. . . . everyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26, 27, 33)
Jesus then said to those Jews who believed in him, “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)
I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)
These costs can be summarized as follows:
- A disciple must love Jesus even more than his immediate family. (Luke 14:26)
- A disciple requires self-denial, complete dedication, willing obedience, and total commitment – even unto death (Luke 14:27)
- A disciple surrenders everything for Jesus. (Luke 14:33)
- A disciple remains true to Jesus’ words and teachings. (John 8:31)
- A disciple loves others as Jesus has loved him. (John 13:34-35)
The Catechism defines a disciple this way: “The disciple of Christ must not only keep the faith and live on it, but also profess it, confidently bear witness to it, and spread it“ (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1816). Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the famous German Lutheran martyr, wrote a book called “The Cost of Discipleship.” If I had to summarize with one word how he described this cost, it would be “obedience.” In Acts 13:22, God called David “a man after my own heart.” He called David that because “he will do everything I want him to do.” I believe this is also part of our call as Jesus’ disciples.
When we consider all these “costs” associated with being a disciple, we realize that living out this call requires each of us to be “transformed by the renewal of your mind that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:2) and be “transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18). This transformation is a process that is ongoing throughout our lives, and it requires an ever deepening infilling of the new wine of the Holy Spirit. However, we know that this “new wine” cannot be poured into “old wineskins.”
“No one tears a piece out of a new garment to patch an old one. Otherwise, they will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins.” (Luke 5:36-38)
As Jesus’ disciples, our Father wants each of us as Catholic men to be witnesses of his Gospel and servants of his kingdom. Becoming “new wineskins” means embracing the cross, dying to sin, and saying no to all those things that are opposed to God’s commandments. It means spending time every day with the Lord in prayer and Scripture. It means continually turning to the Lord, asking him to fill us with his Spirit and asking him to transform us into his image and likeness. It means frequently available ourselves of the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation. As we do this, it will lead to the kind of transformation that we all long to experience, the kind of transformation that will allow us to fulfill the “cost” of being the disciple Jesus has called us to be.
“Lord Jesus, I want to be your disciple, no matter what the cost. I believe this is your call for my life, and I say yes to this call. Your grace is sufficient to transform me and make me faithful to this call. Your grace is sufficient for me to deny myself, take up my cross, and follow you. I want to be a witness to your Gospel and a servant of your kingdom.”
Many thanks to The Word Among Us (www.wau.org) for allowing me to adapt meditations in their monthly devotional magazine. Used with permission.
Questions for Reflection/Discussion by Catholic Men
1. Several Scriptures are quoted in this article. Take some time to meditate and reflect on them. In light of the title of this article, what do you think God is trying to reveal to you through them?
2. The article states that Jesus “calls each of us as Catholic men to be his disciples.” How would you describe your own call to be a disciple?
3. The article lists several Scriptures in which Jesus describes what it means to be his disciple. What do these Scriptures tell you about the cost of being a disciple?
4. The article also describes the need for us as Catholic men to be transformed if we are to fulfill the costs of being Jesus’ disciple. How would you describe this process of transformation, especially in your own life?
5. What are some areas of your life that the Lord wants to change from old wineskins to new wineskins, so he can fill you even more with the new wine of his Holy Spirit?
6. Take some time now to pray for the grace to not only say yes to Jesus’ call to be his disciple, but also for the grace to live it out. Use the prayer at the end of the article as the starting point.