A Hard Take on Discipleship

When I interviewed for my current youth ministry job, my now-coworkers asked me, “So what do you know about St. Peter Church?” Thanking the Lord I had spent time looking at the parish website the night before my interview, I confidently replied that the purpose of St. Peter Church is to make missionary disciples.

Mic drop, crushed it … or so I thought. Until they asked me something along the lines of “So how would you make missionary disciples out of the teens?” Although I don’t remember my answer in full, I do remember stating that we needed to start with the question, “What is a disciple and what does it take to be one?”

You see, we are all called to be disciples – everyone, more than just the parishioners of St. Peter Church. And we learn a lot about what it takes to be a disciple in today’s Gospel reading. Verses 34-38 present many short teachings on the conditions of discipleship, with verses 34 and 35 perhaps being the most well known: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.”

In these verses, Jesus presents a challenge to his current disciples and all those disciples still to come. Discipleship involves a choice and He lays it all on the line, not holding anything back about what it takes to be a disciple. A true, authentic disciple will totally commit himself or herself to the task at hand, all the way to the point of suffering or death. As a result, a disciple who is loyal to Christ will have fullness of life, even despite earthly suffering and death.

Jesus takes it a step further in verse 36 and puts the conditions of discipleship in monetary terms, such as “profit,” “forfeit” and “exchange.” Here, He is asking, “What is worth more, your riches or your soul?” Today’s society places such an emphasis on monetary gain at the expense of almost everything else while Jesus reminds everyone of the danger of wealth.

Meanwhile, the final verse serves as a stern reminder to uphold the truth of Jesus’ teaching. Anyone who is afraid to speak the truth or dilutes it in any way will be ashamed when he or she comes before the Lord.

How do we stack up? By these conditions, how does our discipleship look? Do we need to take a hard look at ourselves and make some difficult changes? May we look to this Gospel for the right direction.

Contact the author

Erin is a Cleveland native and graduate of the Franciscan University of Steubenville. Following graduation, she began volunteering in youth ministry at her home parish of Holy Family Church. Her first “big girl” job was in collegiate sports information where, after a busy two years in the profession on top of serving the youth, she took a leap of faith and followed the Lord’s call to full-time youth ministry at St. Peter Church. She still hopes to use her communication arts degree as a freelance writer and statistician, though. You can catch her on the Clarence & Peter Podcast on YouTube as well as follow her on Twitter @erinmadden2016.