4 Jun 2019
From Miletus Paul sent for the elders of the church of Ephesus. When they arrived he addressed these words to them: ‘You know what my way of life has been ever since the first day I set foot among you in Asia, how I have served the Lord in all humility, with all the sorrows and trials that came to me through the plots of the Jews. I have not hesitated to do anything that would be helpful to you; I have preached to you, and instructed you both in public and in your homes, urging both Jews and Greeks to turn to God and to believe in our Lord Jesus. ‘And now you see me a prisoner already in spirit; I am on my way to Jerusalem, but have no idea what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit, in town after town, has made it clear enough that imprisonment and persecution await me. But life to me is not a thing to waste words on, provided that when I finish my race I have carried out the mission the Lord Jesus gave me – and that was to bear witness to the Good News of God’s grace. ‘I now feel sure that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will ever see my face again. And so here and now I swear that my conscience is clear as far as all of you are concerned, for I have without faltering put before you the whole of God’s purpose.’
Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said:
For I did not shrink from declaring to you, the whole purpose of God
When Christ hung on the cross at Calvary, He seemed a broken man. He was. Not a glorious victorious God of all creation but simply a broken man, forsaken by practically all his ‘followers’. Except for John, none of the other disciples were anywhere to be found. Not even Peter, who already gone through one round of betrayal of Jesus by his earlier denial, for which he clearly repented. Yet, again, at the foot of the cross, he was still very much the coward. Only a handful of weeping women (considered nobodies in traditional Jewish society) and one pathetic disciple, who at least had the guts to show up. The Devil, the Pharisees, the Sanhedrin and Pilate…they had a lot to celebrate that day. It was utter and total victory – their plan came to perfection. For a short while anyway.
3 days later, all that changed. And with Pentecost, the disciples of Jesus truly came into existence. God was ready to get His work done and kingdom-building could finally start in earnest. It took nothing less than the full power of the Holy Spirit to literally transform a bunch of inept, dispirited and broken cowards into the spiritual powerhouse that would rock the pagan world of the time and give birth to the true splendour, power and glory of the Christian God.
And yet, the foundation of the Catholic Church did not come easy. It literally took the blood and tears of the founding apostles and 300 years of courage, sacrifice and blood of martyrs to lay its foundations. The founding fathers of our faith paid a heavy price. Discipleship did not come cheap back then. It still does not come cheap today.
Amongst the apostles, Paul, above all others, best exemplified what true discipleship was all about. Paul was not only focused on his mission – he was practically fixated and totally single-minded. Pain, abuse, imprisonment, sleeplessness, starvation, slavery, floggings, whippings, stoning, cold, heat, fatigue, poverty, deprivation…the list goes on. All in a day’s work for him. Standard price of a ticket on the bus of true discipleship. And he was to pay that price over and over and over again. He had served the Lord faithfully with tears and trials. He had given testimony and witness to Jews and Gentiles. Paul showed that being a follower of Jesus involves both total commitment in trust to God and a re-ordering of one’s life in accordance with the Gospel. Despite the pleas of his followers not to go to Jerusalem as it meant signing his own death warrant, he described himself as being a “prisoner of the spirit” – the Spirit drove and compelled him forward. He knew what was waiting for him in Jerusalem. But it didn’t matter. The mission was the only thing that mattered. His life was not important to him. What was important was “that I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, namely, to bear witness to the gospel of God’s grace”. As he tells the Philippians, compared to the sharing of the Gospel with others, life and death are secondary.
And although Paul was a great exemplar of such amazing discipleship, he was not unique. All the apostles, bar none, were on fire with the Holy Spirit. And the ancient world was set on fire by the spirit of Jesus Christ through these apostles. We owe our faith today to men such as these. And to countless others who paid dearly the price of true discipleship. Men and women who persevered in fidelity not just to God, but to the purpose and mission entrusted to them by Him. Men and women who understood that the price of discipleship did not come cheap but who were blessed to have discovered through divine revelation, that their God came with only one price tag – Priceless.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Justus Teo)
Prayer: Father help us. We fail to see the treasure we have in you and in the precious faith you have given us. We fail to recognize that the mission you entrust to us is for us alone to fulfill and that you are counting on us to do it. So often, we count the price of our discipleship to you and so often, our discipleship of you costs little. Our discipleship comes cheap. More often than not, it is practically worthless.
Thanksgiving: Father, thank you for the gift of the apostles who laid the foundations upon which our faith and our Church stands strong. Despite all the huge challenges it faces, we cling to the promise that it continues and will always continue to prevail. For it is a faith paid for dearly by the sacrifice of your most beloved Son and the priceless fidelity of your true disciples.