By Kathleen A. Cahalan and Laura Kelly Fanucci
23rd Publications, November 2015, 112 pp.
In this excerpt from Living Your Discipleship: Seven Ways to Express Your Deepest Calling, Kathleen A. Cahalan, Director of the Collegeville Institute Seminars, explores the calling to discipleship shared by all Christians.
Think of “call” as a verb: something we do, or better yet, something God does. God has to call out to Abraham and Sarah, summon Moses, command the Israelites, and rouse the prophets. God is a caller first and foremost. To call out to us is the way God invites us to be in relationship.
Through Jesus’ life and ministry, God continues this dynamic movement of calling people and waiting to see how they respond. Here in flesh and blood is the God of salvation calling out to us once again: come and live in my ways, heed my commands, follow this path, and you too will be my children.
Calling is about relationship: what goes on between the One who calls and the one who responds. But relationships are two-way streets. We also call to God—crying out, shouting, asking, inviting, and begging. I have even commanded at times: “God, you must do this!” The nature of the divine-human relationship is that we call out to each other.
Read one story in the Bible or read them all—the dynamic is the same. As a child I didn’t need to read the whole Bible in order to understand its meaning. It is one big calling story about God’s relentless love and mercy toward the people, and the people’s responses, sometimes following and at other times rejecting the ways of the Lord. God first calls us into relationship, and the rest is history.
Now think of “call” as a noun—to have a call or calling or vocation (vocare in the Latin, meaning “calling”). In this sense, call is something we have, something we are. We each have a calling to follow Christ, received in our baptisms.
We also have particular callings. For example, one of my callings is to be a teacher, and one of my coauthor, Laura’s, callings is to be a writer. We are both called to be daughters and spouses. Laura is called to be a mother. Through our roles and relationships, each of us is blessed with many callings to heed God’s invitation to follow in the way of Christ.
Calling, then, is something we do, someone we are, and someone we become.[. . .]
Called on the way
I stumbled into the importance of discipleship through writing a book about ministry. I wanted to say what made the calling to ministry for priests, deacons, and lay ecclesial ministers distinctive from other callings, such as an air-traffic controller, coach, or journalist.
What I came to realize was that the call to ministry is the call to nurture everyone’s calling in the community. It means helping all the members of the body of Christ live out our callings to be a disciple and to do this in all the many ways that God calls us—in family life and other relationships, in work and jobs, in neighborhoods and society.
When you become a disciple, you start to live in a certain way, become a certain kind of person, and take on certain practices. For example, people who follow Jesus become worshipers. When they understand that Jesus is the Incarnate One, the Messiah who will save them, they call him “Lord” and fall down at his feet. When he heals them and converts them away from sin, they want to proclaim this good news. They become witnesses.
To be a worshiper and witness means learning to be a neighbor to family and friends as well as strangers and enemies. When a follower is called to be a neighbor, they are called to be a forgiver. For followers of Jesus, the call to be neighbor and forgiver means being a prophet, concerned for all the harm and violence that befalls neighbors. And finally, to be a follower is to be a steward, one who cares for God’s creation as well as for the “household” of faith.
Discipleship, then, consists of seven features: follower, worshiper, witness, neighbor, forgiver, prophet, and steward.
To continue reading, please visit 23rd Publications for more information about Living Your Discipleship.