Making disciples …

“Go, and make disciples of all nations.” The message of this week’s Gospel is a very straightforward one, leaving no doubt as to what is intended of each and every one of us. We are simply being asked to share the message of love that Jesus exemplified while He walked with us on this earth. 

How can I make disciples? Many fear this request, but yet it is not in the preaching, but in our deeds and actions that we create disciples. How we choose to live our lives, how we treat our fellow brothers and sisters, and how we love others even when it is difficult, is how we “make disciples” of others. 

Many of you know the phrase “Actions speak louder than words,” something that is very evident if you have ever worked with children, or have small children in your lives. You may instruct them on how to behave, but if you watch them closely, you will see them mimic your words and actions. So it is with sharing our faith and beliefs, what others observe, will lead them to repeat or at least question why we are doing it. It is in these moments that we begin to lead them, to make disciples of them.

It is one thing to stand there and preach the Gospel, our faith and our beliefs, it is totally another to live them each and every day. When others witness the love of Christ through our actions, what they see has a far greater effect than what they hear. 

Recently I was able to witness the love God has for each and every one of us through the Sacrament of First Communion. Watching the children receiving the Body of Christ for the first time, is akin to experiencing a little bit of Heaven here on earth. The innocence and joy is so evident, and the sense of being part of something very important is palatable. Every time I witness this, the first thought that comes to mind is that of Jesus telling the Apostles to let the little children come to Him; and the reminder that to have faith like one of these, is to have the greatest faith of all. Pure, sincere and complete trust in what they are doing and Who they are receiving. 

The most poignant moment for me was witnessing the reception of First Communion by a child with a disability. As that child was brought forward by his parents, the silence that engulfed the congregation was amazing, it was as if all stood still so that the only person that mattered at that very moment was this child in the eyes of God. For me, it was simply pure perfection — God’s way of reminding us that we are all children of God, and that whatever we do to the least of these, we are doing to Him. 

Moments like these are true moments of evangelization and creating disciples. These are the times when our actions reach even the darkest corners of our hearts, shedding light into those areas that we felt were unworthy of hope and love. For all those present, whether regular parishioners, or those visiting for the first time, we were given the opportunity to encounter God and Christ. We were able to experience Their love in the most profound way, yet encompassed in the simplest of actions — a child receiving the Body of Christ for the first time. 

For me it has been several weeks now, yet the reverence of that movement still evokes emotions and the miracle that we all witnessed still resounds, well beyond that celebration. It serves as a gentle reminder of the awe-inspiring love of God the Father, Christ the Son, and the ever-present Holy Spirit. On that day many walked in as worshippers and faithful believers, yet one thing is certain, many more “disciples” left that church that day as well. 

It is learning to recognize God in each other, in the moments that make up our lives, in the miracles that occur all around us, and realizing that how we choose to live is noticed by others.  It is important to remember as well that is not strictly the “job” of the clergy and religious, but our role as well. The Apostles were no different than you and me, they were frightened, they were not even sure of what they were seeing, yet it was to these very individuals that Jesus gave the instruction to go out and change the world — one person at a time. They saw and believed, and it was because of what they witnessed that they were able to reach others.  

When we allow others to see God in our lives, they too begin to want the same love, joy and hope in their lives. This gives us the opportunity to bring another closer to the love and into a relationship with God, fulfilling the command that Jesus gave us through the Apostles on that faithful day. So live your faith out loud, let others see it in not only what you say, but how you choose to act, and how you make it a part of every moment of your life. 

With practice, you will become well versed in making “disciples of all the nations.” God bless!

Anchor columnist Rose Mary Saraiva is Events Coordinator and Bereavement Ministry for the diocesan Office of Faith Formation.

© 2019 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing    †    Fall River, Massachusetts