Are you a better disciple today than you were a year ago? It’s a great time of year to review what we need to change and improve in our lives. To be a better follower of Jesus, we should be practicing the habits of good discipleship.
Jesus should be at the center of our lives. Take the time in prayer to discuss this with Jesus: Who is he to you? Is he at the center of your life? Do you prioritize time with him? Look at this honestly with Jesus, he is not harshly judging you for imperfections, he wants to draw you closer to him. Recognize where growth is needed and pick what qualities of discipleship you will focus on this year to develop these good habits.
Christ instituted his Church and the sacraments as pure channels of his sanctifying grace. This is the lifeblood of a disciple. A disciple makes it a habit to regularly and reverently participate in the sacraments. If you are able, are you attending Mass on Sundays and more often if possible? Do you prepare yourself in prayer before Mass to receive the Eucharist? If you are not able to attend, are you keeping the Lord’s day holy and making spiritual communions? Do you go to confession regularly? Jesus is waiting for us in the confessional with special sacramental graces of his mercy to purify us so we can give and receive love more and more perfectly. We might not realize how heavy a burden we are carrying in our hearts until we have been freed of the burden through the sacrament of confession.
Prayer is essential for communicating with God and developing that personal relationship with him. We can pray vocal prayers like the Our Father, the rosary, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, etc, but we should also be spending time in silence, becoming aware of God’s presence and listening to him. We should share with him all our hopes, worries, joys and fears and then let him love us, calm our hearts and direct us. Set a routine of prayer each day and then allow God to bring you closer to him. You may be drawn to spend more and more time in prayer.
As disciples, a very important habit to develop is spending time with the word of God. We should set aside a few minutes each day to read Scripture. This can be part of our prayer. The Word of God is living, the Holy Spirit breathes in and out of the words of Scripture. As a disciple of Jesus Christ, who is the Word of God, we need to be immersed in the Word so that we come to know who he is, how he wants us to live and what he wants us to do. This year in the Archdiocese of Detroit, we are encouraging each other to make a determined effort to read and pray with the Bible. Join the Archdiocesan Scripture Challenge with reading plans to guide you through a year of reading the Scriptures.
Another essential habit of discipleship is to be connected to community. We are not saved as individuals but as members of the body of Christ, and we know where two or three are gathered, there Jesus is in the midst of them. We are made for community. God offers us the gift of holy friendship with each other so that we might encourage each other. This past year we have felt the difficulty of being deprived of connection to others. One of the best ways to connect with a community of disciples is to participate in a small group. These are simple gatherings of a few people to share faith, and reflect on Scripture together through regular meetings. It’s easy to participate or even lead a small group. You might want to invite friends or family to come together for this purpose by joining or leading a small group. Regardless of how you connect, be sure you are making a concerted effort to connect with and support fellow disciples as well as finding disciples who can encourage and support you.
As disciples we are called to bear fruit. God has a mission for each one of us to be witnesses to the love and truth of Jesus Christ. Who is God calling you to love in your life? Who is he calling you to witness to? We should desire that others experience the love, joy and freedom of the life of true discipleship. Ask God for that desire if you don’t think you have it. God will present opportunities to share the love and truth of Jesus Christ, and practicing the other habits of discipleship will prepare us to be channels of God’s grace to others.
Obedience to Christ through the Church
Finally, a habit essential to discipleship is to practice obedience to Christ. Jesus said, “He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” (Jn 14:21) We will experience true freedom through living a life that is in line with the truth. God has revealed the truth about how he has created us to live. These truths are expressed clearly in the moral teachings of the Church. We must do our best to walk in obedience to the truth Jesus has revealed through his Church. We must ask him to help us remain faithful to him, resist temptation, develop virtues, be faithful to our vocations and live in accordance with love and truth.
Take this opportunity to choose habits of discipleship that you want to practice this year, so that a year from today, you can look back and see how Jesus has drawn you closer to him through your active participation in the gifts of grace he offers you.