by Fr. Ignatius
By Fr. Ignatius L. Madya Utama, SJ

A lay lady friend, who has great interest in promoting a better life for the poor, likes to attend seminars and gatherings which deal with issues around this topic. But sometimes she feels a bit irritated, because whenever she attends a seminar or a gathering run by Women Religious, they always ask her what Congregation (of Religious Life) does she belong. Not knowing what answer she should give, she called me and asked me what to say. Spontaneously I told her: “Just tell them, D.O.J.; meaning, Disciples of Jesus.” “After all,” I added, “all of us are called to be disciples of Jesus, no matter what way of life we embrace.” Listening to my answer, she felt satisfied. And so whenever Religious Women ask her what Congregation she belongs to, without hesitation she answers: “D.O.J.”


All of us are called to be disciples of Jesus. In our daily conversation, the word disciple refers to someone who apprentices oneself directly to either a master teacher or to that teacher’s “doctrine” in order to learn a body of knowledge and acquire certain skills so that the disciple may develop a particular way of living with that knowledge and a certain way of doing things.

But if we look at the Old and New Testament Traditions to become a disciple involves, beyond intellectual competency, entering a way of life. In the New Testament, disciples are expected to identify closely with their master teacher. To become a disciple involves a good deal more than simply “taking a class” or “being an apprentice.” Discipleship is a way of life, not a matter of simple pedagogy.

If we read the four Gospels, certain things become very clear about discipleship. First, one does not enroll in the school of Jesus; one is called. Discipleship is a grace to which we must respond, sometimes, radically. Second, disciples do not only learn. They share in the ministry as they are sent in the name of Jesus to heal, exorcise the demoniacs, preach the Good News, and succor the poor. Third, sharing in the ministry of Jesus calls for a spirit of sacrificial love by which we give up goods, leave families, compromise reputations, follow Jesus to the death, etc. In short, discipleship demands that we take seriously the “hard” saying of Jesus.

To sum up, being a disciple of Jesus first of all means to follow the person, and in following the person the teachings and deeds make sense. Furthermore, those who are disciples learn to act, after the fashion of Jesus, in ways that seem contrary to the logic of common experience but which, paradoxically, give us a new and fuller life.

There are five key terms that profile discipleship. First, discipleship demands a relationship that involves the Trinitarian life by which we are related to GOD through the following of Jesus in the Spirit. Second, this relationship involves understanding; meaning, when we follow Jesus we need to understand who He is and for what He stands. Third, following on relationship is a commitment to be faithful, loving, and personal. Discipleship is a steady way of being and acting. Forth, this commitment in relationship means a certain fidelity, so that our behavior is consistent with what we affirm. Finally, we affirm our discipleship in the community of like-minded individuals who are not only our companions but who sustain us in our commitments. Discipleship is not only the following of Jesus but the following of Jesus in a community.