When I was in high school one of my friends gave me a desk sign with Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Mark of a Man” quote—
“The mark of the man of the world is absence of pretension. He does not make a speech; he takes a low business-tone, avoids all brag, is nobody, dresses plainly, promises not at all, performs much, speaks in monosyllables, hugs his fact.”
In the Gospel this week we hear Jesus teaching his disciples about what are the “marks” of being a disciple. They are really challenging—“Love your enemies…Stop judging and you will not be judged…Forgive and you will be forgiven.” Though challenging, these are the marks of being a disciple, and who we are called to be as Christians.
When I think of disciples today. My mind goes to Pope Francis whom I admire greatly. His words and actions, in my mind, show us an example of the path of discipleship today. Pope Francis cares and advocates for vulnerable persons—the incarcerated, homeless, those who live in poverty, and the refugee and immigrant. He has concern for the environment, works for peace and justice, and advocates for the protection, sanctity, and dignity of all people. Pope Francis’ gestures of closeness, fraternity, and inclusivity show us the way to love as disciples today. In a recent Pope Francis tweet he shares: “It is love that transforms: ordinary things become extraordinary when done with love.” I believe he is an authentic model for us of how we can live our lives with love.
February is national African-American History Month. With this in mind, I think of Martin Luther King Jr. and Georgia Congressman John Lewis, who both show us two other ways of living as a disciple. Not long ago, I spoke in a homily about John Lewis’ popular phrase of “good trouble.” He got into much good trouble as he worked for civil rights and the end to discrimination in our country. Martin Luther King, Jr. was not only a civil rights leader, but also a pastor. I believe he was inspired to do this difficult work of peace and justice through his faith in God.
Finally, we can look for examples of discipleship in our midst at St. Mary. There are many examples. One example, is the Knights of Columbus council here at St. Mary. It was created a few years ago just before the pandemic, and I think a great example of discipleship and faith in action in our community. We can thank the Knights for their recent work in the final cleaning efforts in the Chapel before its reopening; Their outreach to those who live in poverty in WNY; and for engaging the youth in the successful basketball free throw competition.
I began this reflection, referencing the marks of discipleship. Perhaps, the best way to remember how to be a disciple is to practice what we have always been taught, love your neighbor.