Discipleship: Being vs. doing
What am I going to do today? Tomorrow? For the rest of my life?
It is highly likely that we have considered these questions at particular moments and revisited them throughout our lives, responding based on the stage of life in which we find ourselves. Isn’t it striking that these questions are framed as ones of action? What am I going to do? In this fast-paced culture of productivity and accomplishment, it appears to be increasingly more challenging to answer these questions without additional work to be done. More committees, meetings, programs, sports practices and games. We catch ourselves running from one thing to another, for what purpose? At this frantic pace, the transformation from “human beings” to “human doings” is well under way and it is easy to fall into the temptation of “doing discipleship.”
The reality remains. We are human beings created by God, meant to be with Him in this life and forever in the life to come. We are called by the Father to be disciples of His Son. The current tendency, however, is to engage the action of discipleship in its multi-faceted dimensions before truly realizing what it means to be a disciple of Christ and, slowly but surely, becoming that disciple.
We put the cart before the horse; doing before being; discipleship before being a disciple of the Lord who calls us to follow and learn from Him. Is it any wonder why, over time, we seem to do more and, ironically, find ourselves frustrated that there is still more work to be done, or come away from our busyness with less? Less energy, less enthusiasm, less interest, less of a true understanding as to why we started doing what we’re currently doing. According to the world, more is better and less is worse, but the wisdom of the Holy Spirit helps us to learn to do less ourselves, so that the Father can do more with us as disciples of His Son.
The Lord Jesus says to the Twelve, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Very often in hearing these words, we immediately equate discipleship with love and love with action, and herein lies the reason for our “doing discipleship.”
Interestingly, though, we learn about love, and how to love, by being loved; receiving love. We cannot give what we have not first received. If we are to love with the heart of Jesus, we must first know and receive as children of God the love of His Sacred Heart. This happens by being with the Lord in regular prayer, so that slowly, over time, bit by bit, we may listen to Him, be challenged and formed by Him, grow in Him, constantly renewed in Him and loved by Him. In being about this business we become energized, enthusiastic and interested because we have a profound understanding of who we are as human beings created by God, sons and daughters of the Father, receiving and prayerfully reflecting on the Lord’s love in His call to us to be His faithful disciples.
—Father James Dodson is the director of vocations for the Diocese of Burlington.
—Originally published in the Fall 2019 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.