Four characteristics that indicate a life of authentic Christian discipleship

Living the Word / By Tim Irwin

Sixth Sunday of Easter/May 22

Acts 15:1-2,22-29; Psalm 67:2-3,4,5,8; Revelation 21:10-14,22-23; John 14:23-29

Americans highly value convenience. When companies retool their products and services, they hope to make things more convenient for their customers. The website I use to book golf tee times has recently been reworked and to my angst it is now less convenient, leading me to conclude that something has gone awry. Parishes try to make things as convenient as possible for the faithful when scheduling Masses and other activities. It makes sense. Why make things any more difficult than need be?

Not everything lends itself to convenience. Weight loss comes to mind. I have fought the battle of the bulge on and off for decades. All of the alleged convenient ways to slim down have failed. Succeeding in weight loss takes commitment; it’s a struggle. It’s inconvenient at first with poor results. Over time it does seem to become easier and the results tend to improve. Christian discipleship seems to follow this same pattern. Maybe that’s one reason why so many Americans have dropped out of Christianity — authentic discipleship isn’t convenient.

Four characteristics indicate that we are living a life of authentic Christian discipleship:

  • First, if we are not concerned about offending God by sinning, it’s difficult to believe that we are pursuing discipleship. We simply must avoid those occasions of sin that permeate our culture.
  • Second, we must make a commitment to humility and virtuous living. Simply put, we have to do what’s right even when it’s not convenient.
  • Third, we must be charitable, meaning we love others as a manifestation of our love of God. Love is the commitment to the good of the other for the sake of the other and not just because we want or need something from them.
  • Fourth, we must pray. The persistent practice of prayer both private and liturgical is indispensable for Christian discipleship. Nothing Catholic happens in the absence of prayer. We simply need to set aside time each day to pray. We need to regularly participate in the sacramental life of the Church. The most obvious reasons people stop practicing Christianity is because they don’t have a prayer life.


In this Sunday’s Gospel from St. John, Jesus explains the role of the Holy Spirit in the lives of his disciples. The very fact that we need the Holy Spirit indicates the grinding challenge of Christian discipleship.

The persistent practice of prayer both private and liturgical is indispensable for Christian discipleship.

Jesus says, “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you. Peace, I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” The contemporary conveniences that we experience daily may trick us into believing that we can have lasting happiness on our own terms, yet another reason why people stop practicing Christianity.

Perhaps, Christian discipleship begins in earnest when we realize that there is more to happiness than the pleasure and gratification conveniently acquired. Christian discipleship centers on the pursuit of joy and contentment and that results from putting others first. To do that requires an ongoing conversion. Once begun, the prayerful practice of the Holy Faith will suddenly make so much more sense.

We can’t do it alone. We need the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit and the support of our fellow disciples united in the Eucharistic Covenant that is the Holy Church.

This Sunday at Holy Mass let us accept the church’s invitation and make a genuine commitment to Christ. Only then will practicing the Holy Faith make sense. Then we will experience in some measure the joy and contentment that cannot be found in a life conveniently lived.

TIM IRWIN teaches theology and philosophy at Notre Dame High School in Peoria. He is a member of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Morton.


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