Models of Discipleship – By Anne Campbell

models-of-discipleshipDiscipleship is at the heart of the Gospel. As catechists, we seek not only to form others in the foundations of the faith, but also to model for them what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ in today’s world.

In the gospel reading for the Feast of the Holy Trinity, Jesus instructs his disciples, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you,” (Matthew 28:19-20). These words hold great meaning for me as a catechist, and I often reflect on them in light of how I can best help those I teach become faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.

One thing that is on my mind as the school year comes to an end is how to improve next year’s catechetical session. I reflect back on my experience this year working with a group of children going through the RCIA process, and evaluate how well this work has gone. What have I done to prepare my class to live as disciples of Jesus, and what improvements could I implement for my next group?

In the gospel of John, chapter 13, Jesus washes the disciples’ feet. He demonstrates service to others, deep compassion, and mercy with this gesture. In verses 14-15, Jesus tells the disciples, “If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” With this, Jesus shows us that our love for him must extend to service for others, in what we say and in what we do.

Forming young disciples is far more than instruction: It must also change their lives. We must help those we teach to come to a lived experience of Jesus’ new commandment, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another,” (John 13:34).

Pope Francis is a contemporary model of discipleship. In his first papal encyclical, Evangelii Gaudium, the “Joy of the Gospel,” catechists will find a clear picture of what it means to live as a disciple in our time. In this apostolic exhortation, Pope Francis gives the example of Mary as the first disciple and model for us. Mary’s “interplay of justice and tenderness, of contemplation and concern for others, is what makes the ecclesial community look to Mary as a model of evangelization,” (288). Evangelii Gaudium closes with a beautiful prayer honoring Mary, challenging us to have the courage to “seek new paths….bear radiant witness to communion, service, ardent and generous faith, justice, and love of the poor, that the joy of the Gospel may reach the ends of the earth…”

As summer begins and we begin to plan for the upcoming catechetical year, let’s reflect on the following questions:

  1. How does the gospel passage of the Washing of the Feet relate to my task as a catechist or teacher?
  2. How does Pope Francis’ life model discipleship? How can I incorporate this in my teaching?
  3. What areas of growth are needed in my role as a disciple? As a catechist or teacher?

Anne Campbell is a Senior Sales Representative for RCL Benziger.

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