The Call to Radical Discipleship

By Shelby Hawks

If you had asked me a year ago who my favorite saints were, I would have nervously stammered and uttered the first few names that came to mind. I had never had real relationships with the saints because for the longest time they had seemed so vastly different from me.

How could I possibly heal the dying? Open schools and build hospitals? Spread the gospel in distant lands? Travel to the ends of the earth seeking out peoples who had never heard the name of Jesus?

It seemed impossible. It seemed unattainable. The saints appeared distant and untouchable—and so I kept myself at a distance, sure to focus on the differences between myself and these holy beings instead of the common desire for sanctity that bonds us in communion.

And then, ever so slowly, three people made themselves present in my life, humbling themselves to show that they are not so far off after all. One by one, Mary Magdalene, John the Beloved, and John Paul II crept into my little walled-off world, identifying themselves by their weaknesses so that I might be willing to accept their friendship.

These three little friends revealed something so simple to me: they were sinners who found intimacy with Christ.

It is precisely this intimacy that moved them to become Apostles of Love.

My friends, we too are called to be apostles of love—apostles of a divine, forgiving, merciful, faithful, steadfast, unifying love that beckons every heart to intimacy.

We are called to be disciples, speaking this love into hearts too dark to understand that such love exists.

We are called to be His Witnesses—to show His Love by the movement of our lives.

We are called to be intimate and poured out the way Magdalene was.

We are called to rest in His Heart, to be near Him at the foot of His Cross, to take His Mother into our home as John did.

We are called to reveal the Father’s heart and call others toward holiness the way John Paul did.

Brothers and sisters, we are called to share this love through the discipleship He has individually and personally called each one of us to. And of course, this call requires a response—a radical fiat in the face of the suffering and persecution that will inevitably follow and a radical fiat to loving Him in the midst of it.

Magdalene poured out precious oil on the feet of Jesus and stood with him as he breathed his last, even though the Pharisees knew her to be a demoniac and a prostitute. Still—she loved Him.

John was too young, seemingly insignificant among the other apostles, inexperienced, incapable. Still—he loved Him.

John Paul was a man of intense suffering, stripped of all family ties. He was an underground seminarian, risking his life in the midst of the greatest war and tragedy the world has known. He taught the controversial message of spousal love and shared the dignity of mankind in a world too hardened to accept it. Still—he loved Him.

The call to discipleship is radical, my friends. Still, He calls you—to love Him.

So when it seems you are vastly misunderstood, when the friends you used to spend time with suddenly stop inviting you, when the conversation becomes tense as you speak the name of Jesus, when the waiter stares at you uncomfortably as you finish your meal prayer, when it seems harder to find a good community and the world keeps failing to satisfy your heart, you might hear this question in the depths of your heart: Are you too going to leave Me?

And you might be tempted to give up because it seems like too much; after all, how can a person like me live out such a radical call? I am not worthy to love Him like this.

But, my dear friends, I pray that in the moments when I struggle to be humbled like Magdalene, to love like John, to be the voice of the Father like John Paul, I will have the grace to say loud and clear, “But Lord, to Whom else shall I go?” echoing the faith of the saints who now rest in His gaze. I pray that I will pick up my cross and cling to the mission He has entrusted me with, run with fervency toward the One I have chosen to love, and bring many others with me.

Let’s be saints, friends. Let’s go to Him, asking for help from the ones who have won the race. May we each have the grace to embrace the radical call and give our fiat in every moment. Remember, friend, you were made to be a disciple—an apostle of Love.

Mary Magdalene, pray for us.
John the Beloved, pray for us.
John Paul II, pray for us.

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