A Spiritual Reflection On The Path Of Discipleship

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A Spiritual Reflection On The Path Of Discipleship

Transcript Of A Spiritual Reflection On The Path Of Discipleship

An Extended Study Guide for Families and Groups on Archbishop Paul Coakley’s Pastoral Letter “Go Make Disciples!
Building a Culture of Conversion and Discipleship”

User Agreement
The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City grants permission to archdiocesan and parish groups and organizations to modify materials to fit their unique leadership requirements, physical environment needs, locale and format preferences. However, no changes may be made to the content of the materials. Great effort has been made to ensure authentic transmission of Catholic Church teaching. To honor these efforts, we respectfully ask that no modifications be made to the teaching content of the study for any reason.
This study resource is intended to be downloaded and printed for use by groups studying the archbishop’s 2019 pastoral letter. Any unauthorized reproduction of this material or incorporation into a new work is a direct violation of U.S. copyright laws.
© 2020 Archdiocese of Oklahoma City. All rights reserved.
With the exception of short excerpts used in articles and critical reviews, no part of this work may be reproduced, transmitted or stored in any form whatsoever, printed or electronic, without the prior permission of the publisher. Scripture verses contained herein are from the Catholic Edition of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright ©1965, 1966 by the Division of Christian Educators of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
English translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church for the United States of America, copyright ©1994, United States Catholic Conference, Inc.—Libreria Editrice Vaticana. English translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: Modification from the Editio Typica copyright ©1997, United States Catholic Conference, Inc.—Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
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Table of Contents

Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


How to Use the Study Guide . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Reflection 1 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Reflection 2 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Reflection 3 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Reflection 4 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Reflection 5 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Our Lady of Guadalupe, Star of the New Evangelization


Welcome to the “Go Make Disciples” Pastoral Letter Extended Study Guide. This guide is designed for you, your family and your parish community as a spiritual reflection on the path of discipleship described in Archbishop Coakley’s 2019 pastoral letter to the faithful of the Archdiocese Oklahoma City. This study is intended to be shared with another person or group of persons (ideally five to seven people). May the Holy Spirit, who inspired the writing of this letter, inspire you as your group reflects on the call to discipleship and the mission of Jesus Christ’s Church.
How to Use the Study Guide
The study guide is divided into five sessions. The format allows for a 30-minute gathering so that you can meet anytime or anywhere such as before or after Mass, before work or while waiting to pick up children from school or religious education sessions. Your group may choose to meet for longer sessions to allow for extended discussion time. The study is simple and easy to facilitate using the italicized direc-
tions within the text preceded by the  symbol. The facilitator role is not that of
teacher or spiritual director but of coordinator, ensuring everyone has an opportunity to share within the designated time. A weekly reading guide with passages from Scripture and the “Go Make Disciples” pastoral letter is provided at the beginning of each reflection session in preparation for the following week. Each gathering follows the same structure of Gather, Proclaim, Share and Send:
• Gather is a time to be centered in God in his Word and to be connected with each other in prayer. The Scripture passage may be accompanied by a reflection question. (Allow approximately 2-3 minutes with the exception of Day 1.)
• Proclaim is time to learn about each stage of the path of discipleship. (10 minutes)
• Share is time to consider what that stage means in your life and the lives of others you know. This time is prompted by reflection questions, which will be shared among your group. (15 minutes)
• Send is the call to prayer and action for the upcoming week. (2-3 minutes)
The hope is that this study guide will help you along your faith journey, to deepen your relationship with Jesus Christ and his Church, and to share the Good News with those in your world.

Reflection 1
Gather (5-7 minutes based on study group size and familiarity)
 Welcome everyone to the study group. Before joining in one mind and heart in prayer, take
a few minutes to introduce yourselves to each other. After introductions, slowly pray this prayer together as a group:
O Lord, open our eyes to see where you would lead us. Awaken our ears that we would hear your voice guiding us. Inspire our minds that we may comprehend your love for us. Guide our feet to walk in your way. Fill our hearts with peace and joy as we gather together now in name of our Lord Jesus. Amen.
Proclaim (10 minutes)
 Ask the group to consider these questions quietly: When was the first time you left home
for a trip? What was it like? How did you prepare? When you travel now, do you pack too much or do you leave items behind? After a moment of consideration, invite the group to take turns reading the following text aloud.
In January 2019, Archbishop Coakley released his pastoral letter, “Go Make Disciples: Building a Culture of Conversion and Discipleship” to the faithful of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City. In the letter, he reflects on his journeys on the Camino de Santiago and how he fervently prays to the Holy Spirit for the grace and wisdom to faithfully serve the archdiocese. He shares his hopes and plans for building the Kingdom of God in Oklahoma. Such hopes and plans are rooted in his prayer for a New Pentecost to lead to a New Evangelization in the archdiocese. At the first Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles who were in hiding for fear that they too would be put to death. A mighty wind rushed through the upper room where they gathered and tongues of fire rested upon each of them. The images of wind and fire are biblical images of the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit. That day the Apostles were filled with this power, their fear was transformed into courage and boldness and their silence broke into joyful proclamation of Jesus Christ. From that moment on, the Apostles traveled to the ends of the earth proclaiming Jesus as Lord and Savior.
Archbishop Coakley prays that the same Holy Spirit stirs in each one of us a renewed commitment to encounter Jesus daily in ongoing transformation, and a burning desire to share him with a world that so desperately needs him. Every baptized person has been made a child of God, a member of Jesus Christ’s Body—the Church, and a participant in his mission of building up the Kingdom of God. Living as a disciple of Christ is living our deepest identity. It benefits us to often reflect on our call to discipleship.

Reflection 1
The call to discipleship is an invitation for every person. Discipleship is not a “one and done” experience but a lifelong journey. The destination is the same for every person who accepts the invitation to follow Jesus, but each person’s path will look different because of their life situations and experiences. This study reflects on the various stages of discipleship, which Archbishop Coakley introduces on pages 23-25 of his pastoral letter. The four stages of encounter accompany, community and send are somewhat cyclical as each new experience of encountering Christ builds on the previous and leads to a more intimate accompaniment. Therefore, this study is helpful for people at any stage along the path of discipleship. Our group includes people at different stages. We are called to learn from one another to encourage one another, and journey with one another. The path of discipleship is never meant to be traveled alone.
Share (10 minutes)
Open the group discussion by prompting the following questions and inviting partici-
pants to respond. • What comes to mind when you hear the word “disciple?” • In what ways have you experienced the call to discipleship? • What do you need right now to further or strengthen your journey of discipleship? • How does your family or parish live as a community of disciples?
Send (2-3 minutes)
 Thank everyone for participating. Invite them to write the names and contact information
of group members in the front of their study guides. Encourage them to pray for each other during this study. Explain that there is a daily reading guide on the next page to lead them through a section of the Archbishop’s pastoral letter in preparation for the next session. Close with this invitation: Throughout the upcoming week, ask the Lord for a deeper desire to know him and experience his love. Surrender your journey to him, having confidence that he will be your guide and your companion. Simply state throughout each day this week:
Jesus, I trust you and I want to know you more.

Reflection 2
Weekly Reading Guide to Prepare for Session 2
 Day 1: Preface, pgs. 4-7
 Day 2: Disciples on “the Way,” pgs. 6-8
 Day 3: Matthew 13:1-9; 18-23
 Day 4: Good soil, bearing good fruit pgs. 8-11
 Day 5: Acts 9: 1-19
Gather (5 minutes )
 Welcome everyone to the study group. Before joining in one mind and heart in prayer, take a
moment to consider this quote from Pope Francis: “I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least and openness to letting him encounter them…” Evangelii Gaudium (Joy of the Gospel) par. 3. Then, lead the group in the Lord’s Prayer.
Proclaim (10 minutes)
The first stage on the path of discipleship is encounter. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “encounter” as 1) noun: a particular kind of meeting or experience with another person; (2) verb: to come upon or experience, especially unexpectedly. Encounters have a way of affecting us, whether we meet a 90-year-old war veteran, hold a newborn baby or participate in a cause. An encounter with Jesus, however, is different because it is personal on a much deeper level. This personal encounter is a key event in the life of every disciple that can potentially alter the direction their life forever. We see this happen often in the lives of those who encounter Jesus as recounted in the Scriptures. In John 4, a woman of Samaria encounters Jesus at the well. It is an unexpected encounter because the Jews and Samaritans detested each other. It was unexpected timing because the woman had gone to fetch water during the hottest part of the day to avoid public ridicule. In Jesus’ encounter with the woman, he revealed intimate details of her life as well as revealed himself as the promised Messiah. She responded by returning to the others in the village and sharing her experience. Her witness drew others to seek him.

Reflection 2
Another encounter we are familiar with in the Gospel of Luke is Jesus’ appearance to two of his disciples on the way to Emmaus. They did not recognize him in his glorified body and thought him a stranger. Jesus accompanied them for some distance. When they invited him to dine with them, it was in the breaking of the bread that they recognized their Lord. They realized that their hearts had been burning while in conversation with him on the road. At once, they ran back to the others in Jerusalem to share the good news.
Lastly, we recount Saul’s experience on his way to Damascus to persecute the followers of Jesus. Saul was a devout Jew who believed in his quest of defending the Jewish faith from dissenters. He likely observed the Mosaic Law meticulously, yet his heart was hardened. Saul’s life was forever changed when Jesus spoke to him along the path. In that brief exchange found in Acts 9, Paul was transformed – even his name was changed to Paul – as was his objective. Saul’s mission against the early Church transformed into the mission of building up the Church.
Encounters with Jesus may seem unplanned or unexpected, but they are divinely designed. Jesus knows the paths we are traveling, and he knows our needs every step along the journey. Sometimes, like the Samaritan woman or Saul, an encounter with Jesus Christ can be confrontational in that it challenges us to change the way we think or behave. Jesus challenges us because he wants each of us to live life to the fullest, to be one with him, to be a fruitful disciple. Because he already knows each of us so intimately, he encounters us in ways unique to each one of us.
Paul’s experience was unlike any other. We do not have to have a “Road to Damascus” moment, a complete and dramatic reversal in our lives, to fully encounter Jesus. We may encounter him in Scripture, in the people we serve through the corporal works of mercy, and in the Sacraments. These types of encounters, while more common, are no less powerful if we are open to responding to them. This openness is like the Parable of the Sower that Archbishop Coakley references in his pastoral letter. Which soil best describes our hearts? Are we like the hardened soil that cannot be broken through, the soil that also grows thorns or the rich fertile soil? The parable is about us. It’s about the condition and receptivity of our hearts. Ultimately, it’s about fruitful discipleship.
Share (10 minutes) • Have you ever encountered Jesus? If so, how did he challenge or change you?
• What areas of the Catholic faith have been most helpful in connecting to Jesus Christ – both in good times and in personal trials. (Consider the sacraments, Catholic friends, the Mass, serving others, personal prayer.)

Send (2-3 minutes)

Be intentional this week about opening yourself to encounter God in unexpected places,

people or circumstances. Begin each day with a prayer asking the Lord to open your mind and


heart to be mindful of such encounters.

Reflection 3
Weekly Reading Guide to Prepare for Session 3
 Day 1: Obstacles to fruitfulness: paragraphs 1-7
 Day 2: Obstacles to fruitfulness: paragraphs 8-11
 Day 3: Tilling good soil, paragraphs 1-6
 Day 4: Tilling good soil, paragraphs 7-9
 Day 5: Tilling good soil, paragraphs 10-14
Gather (5 minutes)
 Welcome everyone back and ask if anyone would like to share how they encountered Jesus Christ in a special way this past week. After a few group members offer their experiences, ask the participants to consider these two questions: Who is your dearest friend? What do you appreciate most about them? State that today’s reflection focuses on accompaniment and then ask one person to slowly read this passage from Deuteronomy 31:6:
"Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you."
Pause and ask another group member to read the passage again. Repeat one more time.
Proclaim (10 minutes)  Invite participants to take turns reading the following text aloud. In our last session, we read and talked about encountering Jesus Christ in our lives. Some may have experienced a “St. Paul moment” while others’ encounters with Jesus Christ were more subtle. Jesus knows what we need and at what moment. Typically, Jesus is not going to “bust through the door” or “knock us off our horse.” In Revelation 3:20, Jesus says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” Jesus Christ desires an encounter that always offers an invitation to respond. Will you open the door and invite him in? If your response is “yes,” then that encounter leads to accompaniment.

Reflection 3

The Lord has a plan and purpose for every person and his accompaniment is along his path, not along our own self-directed path. He is the Way. This path of discipleship is one of formation and transformation as we learn from the Master-Teacher. Jesus guides, encourages, molds us through Scripture, prayer, study, fellowship, service and the Sacraments. His desire is to have a personal and intimate relationship with us. As with any genuine relationship, “being a fruitful disciple requires being intentional in cultivating the relationship with Christ.” (page 24) We must make a concerted effort to spend time with the Lord to know, to listen, and to be loved by him. Just as with other relationships worth nurturing, however, obstacles can present themselves.
Archbishop Coakley dedicates three pages to discussing the obstacles to fruitfulness. He writes of the world, the flesh, and the devil as distractions that keep us from deepening our relationship with Jesus. The world presents much “noise” that can drown out Divine whispers. “Television, streaming technology, social media, sports, tasks at home and work are not bad in themselves, but if we do not temper them with restraint, they can dominate our lives to such an extent there is no capacity for solitude and reflection.” (page 12) In our flesh, we can experience temptations from food, entertainment or substances. Laziness, like busyness, also can draw us away from spiritual fruitfulness. Lastly, a spiritual battle is taking place in our midst, though the devil’s greatest trick is convincing the world he doesn’t exist. The devil wants nothing more than to sever any relationship we have with God, and he will prey on our vulnerability to accomplish his goal. This is why we must also accompany each other, to provide strength and accountability on the path of discipleship.
As we grow in our own relationships with Jesus and are conformed to him, we also must be Jesus Christ to others. We are called to emulate our relationship with Jesus by meeting others where they are and accompanying them on their own journey. This requires us to accept others, to share our faith story and to listen to their own story. If you find yourself at the early stages of discipleship, who can you find to accompany you? If you are further along your journey, whom can you accompany?
Share (10 minutes)
 Invite participants to share by prompting the following questions: • How do you cultivate friendships? How can you be more intentional in cultivating a relationship with Jesus?
• How do you accompany others (spouse, child, neighbor, co-worker, friend) along their faith journeys?
• What are opportunities for accompaniment in your parish community?

Send (2-3 minutes)

 Invite participants to consider the following question and challenge for the upcoming week:

• Which obstacles are preventing you from fruitful discipleship (of flesh/world/the devil)?

• Be intentional about preparing yourself for the Sacraments (Mass/Reconciliation).


Invite someone to join you.