Discipleship is anything but an easy path and yet it is the path that the authentic Christian must take. Yes, I know all too well, it is easier said than done and utterly impossible without God’s grace. I have personally struggled with this issue for years and hope that I am moving in the right direction as I nourish my personal relationship with Jesus for that relationship is a prerequisite to all that God calls me to be as a disciple.
We can’t sugar coat the calling to discipleship. It means “putting on Christ” and all that the wearing of the Christly garment requires. We have to move towards putting aside self and we are called to do this selflessly and of our own determined will fully trusting that the Holy Spirit has our back and will continue to provide us with grace. One of the many seeming contradictions we embrace is the call to take up our cross and therefore to die to self with the promise that this will create in us new life and further enable us to discover our real selves. As Fr. Bill Grimm said in a recent homily, “One whose life is genuinely identified with that of Jesus, has become a sacred presence to others [our “real self”]. This sacredness might be masked by the weakness, the half faith, the fears and doubts that Jesus’ first disciples carried with them”. However as we modern disciples step out in trust the Holy Spirit magnifies our efforts and helps us to wear the Christly garment effectively.
On the night before his passion, Jesus demonstrated to us the sacredness of service in the “washing of the feet”. Service and hospitality are intimately linked. As Disciples we are servants and the authenticity of our service to others clearly identifies us as Disciples: as the wearer of the Christly garment. When we are welcoming and hospitable to others no matter their station in life we are engaged in contradiction as the fundamentals of modern secular culture call us to celebrate self, foster our self image, and resist activities and relationships that might impact on what modern culture sees as the quality of our lives. Jesus, on the other hand, encourages us to submerge our own identity and in a very real way our way of life to the imperatives of the Gospel.
Fr. Grimm comments that “we cannot be true disciples without being hospitable. The virtue of being hospitable is far more than just being a good host at a dinner party. Hospitality means encountering the presence of God in others, usually in those whom we least expect. This requires participation and sharing. So often we miss the presence of God in others because we have already decided what this presence should be like. We need to let God be God and let God express himself in others, even if this expression is new or even foreign to us. If we can do this, then the stranger among us is no longer a stranger but a member of the family to enjoy a room in our house, our community, our Church”.
The authentic Disciple is called to mission. That mission requires engagement and the proclamation of the Kerygma. Service and hospitality are important preludes to engagement and engagement with one with whom we have built a bridge of trust is an important step in evangelization.