Elizabeth Reardon considers the ways our discipleship requires a response to the need for hope and reconciliation in the world.
In light of the upcoming elections, many of us have spent time considering our options, weighing the consequences and praying that not only our nation survives but can address necessary issues. As difficult as this election year has been, I am reminded that my faith, though resting solely in Christ, cannot remain isolated from the reality that it is practiced in a world that often runs counter to that faith. Noted Lutheran theologian and pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer stressed three elements of “costly discipleship”: (1) prayer, (2) community, and (3) an engagement with surrounding political realities.
In small everyday ways many of us seek to be engaged with the political realities in the world around us. Yet, admittedly we have also become somewhat disillusioned in the leadership to protect and preserve life and truly accomplish transformative change. However, the mission of working towards the kingdom of God is calling us forth as a church, as the body of Christ, to respond. And before we ask, "What can I do?", we need only look to the efforts of those individuals who have taken that step to make a difference and the power of a "Yes!"
Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring.
(St. Catherine of Siena)
St. Catherine of Siena knew the intimate connection between contemplation and action, between our baptism the living out of our discipleship. Renowned for her care for the poor, diseased, and the conversion of sinners, she used her insight, and conviction to influence both pope and city state leaders alike in a call for peace and unity of the church.
Ora et labora
For St. Benedict, prayer and work were the basis of monastic life directed towards the commitment to further “seek after peace and pursue it.”
Praying with my feet
(Rabbi Adam Joshua Heschel)
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel first gave this response when asked why he, a renowned Hebrew scholar, chose to march with Martin Luther King in Selma. For when prayer is centered on God, there is an invitation both to piety and praise, as well as to commit our actions towards that love of God. Whether or not you feel represented, led or inspired by either candidate in this election, the majority of us can agree that there remain many steps to be taken ahead.
May prayer and action always be deeply united. A prayer that does not lead you to practical action for your brother.. is a sterile and incomplete prayer. But, in the same way, when ecclesial service is attentive only to doing, things gain in importance, functions, structures, and we forget the centrality of Christ.
(Pope Francis, Angelus 7/21/13)
Pope Francis is setting a beautiful model that we can all emulate in calling us to reach out as a community to meet those who are suffering and in need ... to embrace, heal, provide reconciliation and be a means of hope. He articulates the necessity to be aware of the intimate presence of God within, to seek moments of contemplation in our everyday world, work for the common good, and encourage others to do the same. It is here that I see my place currently within the community of faith in working towards these initial steps, and in enacting my faith albeit locally towards new paths. Each step is a prayer, and a hopeful course of action. Each life encountered, an opportunity to see and meet Christ in one another.
What shape does "costly discipleship" take in my own life today and in the years ahead? Am I engaged in active discipleship and willing to "pray with my feet"?
Copyright 2020 Elizabeth Reardon
Images (top to bottom): copyright 2019 Holy Cross Family Ministries, all rights reserved; Christian Buehner (2020), Unsplash
About the Author
Elizabeth Reardon is Director of Parish Ministries and Pastoral Associate for the Collaborative Parishes of Resurrection & St. Paul in Hingham, Massachusetts; a wife and mother of three, and writer at TheologyIsAVerb.com. Her writing is an invitation to seek and create space for God in the midst of the busyness of everyday life.