By Fr. Matt Keller, C.PP.S.
What is a disciple? One definition of a disciple is a person who follows Jesus. And you know I will not disagree with this definition. A disciple is someone who follows Jesus. While I do not disagree with the definition, sometimes I think we can have a misunderstanding of what it means to be a disciple.
One misunderstanding we may have of being a disciple is that it is a problem-free life. That once we make this commitment to being a disciple, we will never have a problem again in our lives. Often, we hear witness talks where the speaker talks about all kinds of problems and challenges they had prior to becoming a disciple. And now that they have made this commitment to faith, to discipleship, we get the impression that their problems and/or challenges are gone. I would argue, however, that the problems and/or challenges are still there. But what I think the Lord does for us is give us a glimmer of hope, gives us the strength to work through our problems and/or challenges. With the Lord in our lives, the impossible becomes possible. Paul calls on Timothy to bear his “share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God” (2 Tm 1:8b). We see these signs of hope on the surface of our Scriptures today in the face of default situations.
We hear God’s promise to Abram to make of him a great nation and it is with Abram’s faith in that promise that he leaves the land and house of his father. We hear of the promise today but what we can so easily forget is that Sarai, Abram’s wife, was barren, they were childless and had no heir to carry on their legacy. Yet it is with Abram’s faith and trust in God’s promise that he does as the LORD instructs him to do. And eventually God does come through on his promise.
In the same way we hear of Peter, James and John experiencing the Transfiguration. Of Jesus leading Peter, James and John up the high mountain where Jesus’s face shone bright as the sun, Moses and Elijah appearing, the casting cloud, and voice coming from the cloud, a moment where the disciples experienced Jesus’ glory. But what we can easily forget is just prior to this Jesus told his disciples he was going to “suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priest, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised” (Mt 16:21). The Transfiguration did not stop this from happening but it gave the disciples hope.
In the midst of this challenge, God reveals God’s glory. Not to change reality: Sarai and Abram were still childless and Jesus was still going to go to the cross. But the revelation of this glory becomes a way of assuring us that God is with us.
We are committed disciples of the Lord and while it may be conceived that this is a problem-free life, reality tells us a different story. Being a disciple of the Lord means a life of challenges, problems and struggles. And in the midst of it God reveals Godself to us with his glory. Not necessarily to change our reality but to give us hope that he is with us to help us. As we journey with the Lord through this season of Lent, we carry our own crosses with the hope of experiencing the resurrection at Easter.
To view the full scripture reading, click here.
Fr. Matt Keller, C.PP.S., ordained in June 2018, is the parochial vicar of the Dayton Region Seven parishes, which includes Emmanuel, Holy Trinity and St. Joseph.