A disciple is a follower or adherent supporter of a leader or teacher. It is the name usually given to the followers of Jesus Christ. The most eminent disciples are the Twelve Disciples who were specifically chosen by Jesus to preach the Gospel and called Apostles.
Simon and his brother Andrew were the first men called by Jesus. At the time they were catching fish with a net in Lake Galilee. Jesus walked along the shore and said to them, ‘Come with me, and I will teach you to catch people’ (Mk 1: 16 – 18). At once they left their nets and followed him. James and John, the sons of Zebedee were called secondly after Jesus saw them in a boat getting their nets ready. He called them and they too left behind their belongings and went with him.
Time went by and Jesus called another man named Levi. Levi was the son of Alphaeus and a tax collector. He was sitting in his office when Jesus approached him. ‘Follow me,’ (Mk 2: 13 – 14) Jesus said and Levi immediately followed.
Mark’s Gospel does not record when or where the other disciples were called. We know that Jesus chose the Twelve Apostles upon a hill. He called to himself the men he wanted and they came to him. He said to them: ‘I have chosen you to be with me. I will also send you out to preach, and you will have authority to drive out demons.’ (Mk 3: 14 – 15) He chose twelve men who became ardent supporters of his teachings. Jesus chose people who were part of the main industry of the area (the fishermen); patriots (the zealot) or who were civil servants (the tax collector).
Mark, in his Gospel, showed that being a disciple of Jesus would put great pressure on their faith. Jesus had never promised that life, as a disciple would be easy. After he had spoken about his suffering and death, he said: ‘If anyone wants to follow me, he must forget self, carry his cross, and follow me.’ (Mk 8: 34) Any follower of Jesus would probably suffer just like Jesus. ‘For whoever wants to save his own life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.’ (Mk 8: 35)
When Peter saw the suffering of Jesus, his faith in Jesus failed him, and he disproved of any association with him. Judas Iscariot was another apostle of Jesus Christ. Rather than denying Jesus, he betrayed him and handed him over to the authorities. Peter, after offending realised what he had done wrong. From then on he did not shun Jesus and was persecuted in later life. The story of Peter’s denial has all the evidence of personal confession of failure to live up to chivalrous words of loyalty. Judas however could not admit to being wrong and ended his life.
Jesus showed people that they would have to learn to value things differently if they were going to follow him. For example, the attitude he showed towards prostitutes or tax collectors. They learned from Jesus to respect the outcasts of their society and think of them as people who needed help.
One event gives an example of the price of following Jesus. He was once asked: ‘Teacher, what must I do to receive eternal life?’ (Mk 10: 17) He replied: ‘ You need only one thing. Go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven, then come and follow me.’ (Mk 10: 21) Once the man heard this, a look of gloom came over his face and he went away sad because he was rich.
Jesus used this conversation as a lesson for his disciples. He taught them of the perplexity that possessions could be to a person who may set them up as a rival to God. They do not give their undivided love to God but balance their attention between God and their assets.
After the rich man had left, Peter asked Jesus about the reward that a disciple receives: ‘Look we have left everything and followed you.’ (Mk 10: 28) Jesus replied: ‘He will receive a hundred times more houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields – and persecution as well; and in the age to come he will receive eternal life.’ (Mk 10: 30)
Jesus ordered the Twelve Apostles to follow certain instructions. These instructions were called the ‘Mission of the Twelve.’ The disciples were sent out in pairs and were not to take any food with them. They were not to take any money and had to stay in a place if they were made welcome until they left the district. The disciples were to shake the dust off their feet as they left a place if they did not receive hospitality. This was to show that the disciples had no time for them because they had rejected God. (Mk 6: 7 – 13)
These instructions have a special meaning. They prove that discipleship can involve suffering, rejection and death. To those who do react, there will be a reward. Just as Jesus will rise from the dead after his suffering and death, so those who accept challenge to become disciples will find life. When people decided to follow Jesus, they became members of a new family. Those who followed God’s way were classed as Jesus’ family: ‘Whoever does what God wants him to do is my brother, my sister, my mother.’ (Mk 3: 33)
To be a disciple, one must acquire many values, for example being able to listen, self – sacrifice, being obedient and having faith. There are many qualities needed to achieve discipleship and those are mentioned in Mark’s gospel.
Once Jesus was approached by James and John and asked: ‘Teacher, when you sit on your throne in your glorious Kingdom, we want you to let us sit with you, one at your left and one at your right.’ (Mk 10: 35 – 37) Jesus asked James and John: ‘ You don’t know what you are asking for. Can you drink the cup of suffering that I must drink? Can you be baptised in the way I must be baptised?’ (Mk 10: 38) At once James and John said that they would be able to and Jesus replied: ‘You will indeed drink the cup I must drink and be baptised in the way I must be baptised.’ Afterwards when all of the disciples were gathered together, Jesus told them that: ‘If one of you wants to be great, he must be the servant of the rest; and if one of you wants to be first, he must be the slave to all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served; he came to serve and to give his life to redeem many people.’ (Mk 10: 43 45) This story showed how James and John had the qualities of being disciples, they were willing to serve God – a disciple must have the attitude of a servant.
Levi the tax collector also showed the values of a disciple. When Jesus said to him ‘Follow me, (Mk 2: 13 – 14)’ he immediately left everything and went with him. On this occasion, Levi showed the signs of obedience.
Jesus taught his disciples about being childlike also. They once scolded people who bought their children for Jesus to place his hands upon. Jesus told them: ‘Let the children come to me, and do not stop them, because the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I assure you that whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.’ (Mk 9: 13 – 15)
Baptism is the first of the three sacraments of initiation which makes a person a full member of the Christian Church. These sacraments are Baptism, the Eucharist and Confirmation. There is a special service or rite for the Christian initiation of adults into the Church. Confirmation seals a Christian with the gift of the Holy Spirit. This is the same Holy Spirit that came down upon the apostles at Pentecost. The Holy Spirit is given to a Christian at Baptism and in the Sacrament of Confirmation the ceremony of initiation into the Christian family is completed. In the ceremony of Confirmation, the faith that was avowed in baptism is renewed. Religious men and women are devoted to God by three vows, poverty, chastity and obedience.
A vocation is a divine call to or a sense of one’s fitness for a certain career or occupation. Christians who belong to the Roman Catholic Church can choose from three ways in which they can fulfil their vocation which they have received in Baptism and Confirmation. They can carry out their responsibilities as a single or a married lay person. The term ‘ lay’ means non-clerical; not ordained into the clergy. The laity are called to demonstrate the principles, which Christ taught, by missionary work, reading in Church or by teaching others. They also bring holiness to others by the example of their lives. Lay people should also implement Christ’s teachings to the problems of the modern world, e.g. violence, drugs, crime, healing the sick, feeding the hungry or housing the homeless.
Honesty, justice, sincerity, kindness and courage are the values of a Christian. Married people prove their holiness in the success of their marriage, or their family relationships. The example of a good life activates other people to want to share in that kind of life, and brings them to God.
Those who are devoted to religion can experience religious life in contemplative orders or apostolic orders. Those that follow contemplative orders lead a concealed life of work and prayer. Rather than going out to help people physically, they pray for the inequalities of the world or partake in the background work for events. Examples of people who live like this are the Carmelites and the Poor Clares (for women) and the Carthusians and Cistercians (for men).
People who prefer to help others on a public scale live life according to apostolic orders. These people lead a life of prayer, and community work. They participate in helping the sick, teaching others, helping the poor or helping the elderly.
One can take a Christian vocation even further when they are ordained to priesthood. Nevertheless, before a man can be commissioned to the priesthood, he becomes a deacon. Before ordination, the deacon may help in a parish by proclaiming the Gospel at mass, Baptising, assisting at marriages and conducting funeral services. A deacon must also promise celibacy and he must care for the people of God.
When people live their lives to coincide with the Gospel, they receive rewards. Although Jesus has promised eternal life to those who live simple lives so that others can simply live, a person can also receive rewards here on earth. Jesus had never said that discipleship would be easy yet many people can obtain satisfaction from their work. For example, a dedicated mother or father is gratified as they watch their children grow and people who work with those with addictions are content when they see that someone who they have helped is able to survive without drugs or alcohol.
As Jesus has promised that being a disciple is not unconstrained, we should expect obstacles to make our journey harder. There have been many people throughout history who have endured agony in place of others and many who have died for the sake of their beliefs.
One man who did this was Oscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdames. Oscar Romero was born in San Salvadore in 1917. He was ordained into the Roman Catholic Church in 1942, was elected as bishop in 1970 and seven years later, he was made archbishop of San Salvadore.
Despite what people thought of him, Romero had publicised the importance he attached to social justice. The right – wing believed that the Catholic Church in San Salvadore, and in particular the Jesuits, were involved in ‘Marxist subversion’ on behalf of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front guerrilla army.
His death affected the Roman Catholic world with Romero standing out as an ‘apostle’ of human rights. Oscar Romero showed true discipleship, although he umpired violence, he continued to preach within hasty conditions. In the end he made the greatest sacrifice of all, he lost his life. Romero put himself last for the sake of peasants who had no human rights whatsoever, he used his status to help those with none.
Even in today’s world, there are still inequalities. These inequalities occur more often in developing countries and are usually caused by the arms race, the inability to recover from natural disasters, increasing debt, the population explosion, ignorance and illiteracy.
Education is needed desperately in developing countries. Children may only know their local dialect and may not be able to interact with other villages or tribes. Ignorance and illiteracy have serious side – effects on health, techniques of farming, industry and trade.
The problems of developing countries are so dramatic that aid is only effective if performed on a global scale. However it is from voluntary services and organisations that most aid comes from. One example of an organisation that does this is CAFOD (The Catholic Fund Overseas Development). CAFOD was set up by the bishops of England and Wales in 1962 to asseverate the concerns of the Catholic community for the needs and problems of developing countries. CAFOD supply information about the needs of developing countries. Information packs are provided and contain the history, social conditions, and development of a particular country. Films, slide – sets, pamphlets, books and posters are produced. The organisation asks people to remember the teaching of Jesus regarding prayer, fasting, alms – giving (charity).
The spirit of Jesus’ words explains the attitude of giving which is encouraged by CAFOD. Prayer, fasting and charity are the three traditional ways in the Church of helping those in need, and go back to the earliest days in the Acts of the Apostles. The CAFOD groups are encouraged to give up something each week as a regular act of self – denial, in order to help the poor.
The money raised by CAFOD goes towards community development, food production, water supplies and irrigation, preventative medicine, vocational training, adult education. Particular projects may include a village well; a rural dispensary; a mother and child nutrition scheme; or a latrine programme in a slum.
CAFOD functions as it believes in the basic equality of all people in the sight of God. Human dignity demands a fair standard of living. Everyone has the same needs of food, clothing, and shelter. CAFOD is a way of being with Christ who is hungry, thirsty and in need.
Having reported on the values of discipleship, I shall challenge the hypothesis that states: ‘It is not possible to be a true disciple of Jesus in the modern world.’ I disagree with this statement entirely. I believe that anyone, who is a good administrator of all that God trusts him or her with, is worthy of earning discipleship.
Before Jesus died he said: ‘If anyone wants to come with me, he must forget self, carry his cross, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his own life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for me and for the Gospel will save it.’ (Mk 8: 34 – 35)
There are several examples of people in the modern world who make sacrifices and carry a cross for the sake of the gospel and other people. For instance, Martin Luther King. He was an American clergyman who partly led the American civil rights movement. He was a chief supporter of non- – violent resistance to racial oppression. Martin Luther King lived in an era when individuals were not accepted in America. His successful preoccupation with Vietnam and his determination to lead a ‘Poor People’s March’ in a racist community triggered his murder on April 3, 1968.
No human being is perfect and a disciple does not require precision either. We know this because the twelve apostles turned their back on Jesus at least once. Peter denied Jesus, Judas betrayed him and the other ten ran away when he was arrested. Consequently, if people have made mistakes in the past they can be forgiven and start again. It is human nature for people to make errors and because God is forgiving, it is never too late for a person to acquire the values of discipleship.
On the other hand, others may disagree. A common theory is that people cannot practice their religion as there is far too much violence and indignity around the World and people are unable to worship freely. Around the time of Jesus there was much persecution and people were mistreated if they did not share common beliefs. Moreover many people such as Saint Peter continued to practice their faith regardless of the potential risk that it imposed.
There are many people who cannot adapt to the Christian faith because Jesus is dead and the number of people who attend mass is declining. They fail to believe because they need visual evidence to reassure them that there really is a God. As few people visit Church nowadays, some fail to recognise how discipleship can survive through a small amount of people. As the basis of the Church relies on secondary evidence written in the Gospel, many are not trustworthy enough to depend on books and because of this, some communities favour other religious practice.
Having weighed up the opinion opposite to mine, I strongly disagree with its argument. My reasoning is that we live in a World of diverse culture, where in most places people are accepted for their faith, gender, status and being. As time has passed, women have gained equal rights as men, black people have earned the same respect as white people and homosexuality and individuality is accepted. So why is faith different?
There is a minority of people who are still unable to preach openly but the Christian population is increasing and the majority of Christians are able to profess their beliefs without encumbrance.
And that is why there are many people today who are willing to help those that are limited in being able to praise God independently. When someone goes to the hospital to be treated for an illness, they see doctors and nurses helping them. One cannot say that these people are poisoned with remorse but only guardianship because they look out and care for the welfare of others. They are examples of discipleship as they assign their time for the comfort of others.
There are people who are involved and dedicate their life to aiding those less fortunate than themselves, working with charities like CAFOD to assist those weaker in the fellowship. These are the people who do carry their own cross and make sacrifices for the benefit of others. These are the people who qualify as disciples and prove that good people are still on hand today.