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We Are Witnesses for Christ – Discipline

Fr. John Codis
November 18, 2012

Book Reference
The Selfless Way of Christ
Downward Mobility and the Spiritual Life
By Henri J. M. Nouwen

Opening thoughts and basis for discussion

Our vocation as Christians is to follow Jesus on his downward path and to become witnesses to God’s compassion in the concrete situation of our time and place.

If we allow ourselves to become consumed by our “needs” and “desires” we lose our true vocation. It is within this tension that provides us with the necessity of spiritual formation.

To be witnesses or disciples of Christ we must be disciplined. Discipline in the spiritual life differs from discipline in other areas of our lives.

Three forms of Discipline

1. Discipline of the Church

2. Discipline of the Book

3. Discipline of the Heart

The Discipline of the Church

The discipline of the church is the way we remain in touch with our true story of God in history. This story is alive through the sacramental life of the church especially the celebration of the Eucharist.

The events of Christ’s life is realized among us in and through the church. It is Advent, Christ is coming; it is Christmas, Christ is born; it is Lent, Christ is suffering; It is Holy Week, Christ is dying; it is Easter, Christ is risen; it is Pentecost, Christ is sending his Spirit. All other events – personal, social, or political – derive their meaning from the life of Christ.

The Discipline of the Book

Reading the Scriptures is essential for anyone who wants to follow Christ on the road of downward mobility.

By the Word of God we are formed into living Christ, and this formation goes far beyond information, instruction, edification, or inspiration.

Reading and studying are often part of our attempts to be more relevant, spectacular, and powerful. We must however be mindful that even reading the Scripture itself can become dangerous for our spiritual life.

The Discipline of the Heart

“The discipline of the heart is the discipline of personal prayer. In the context of the liturgical life of the church, and supported by an ongoing meditation on the Word of God, personal prayer leads us to not just our own heart, but to the heart of God.” Nouwen pg. 82

Prayer as a spiritual discipline is necessary because it opens us to the reception of God, it prevents us from being filled by the world, and it allows us to pray and for God to pray through us.

The Witness of the Church

One way the church witnesses Christ is through the placements of Holy Icons. Icons are used throughout the church because they are associated with worship. The icon becomes a “window into heaven” and helps us direct our attention to divine things which go beyond the merely physical appearance.

Conclusion

“We will never be without struggle. But when we persevere with hope, courage and confidence, we will come to fully realize our innermost being that through the downward road of Christ we will enter with him into his glory. So let us be grateful for our vocation, resist our temptation, and be ever committed to a life of ongoing formation.” Nouwen

 

We Are Witnesses for Christ – Temptation

Joseph Olas
November 11, 2012

Book Reference
The Selfless Way of Christ
Downward Mobility and the Spiritual Life
By Henri J. M. Nouwen

The Lure of Upward Mobility

1. In what circumstances have you encountered the temptation to be relevant? How can we resist this temptation?

2. How does the desire to be spectacular show our insecurity, as well as a lack of faith in God?

3. Why is the experience of God’s unconditional love the basis of all ministry?

4. According to Henri, what is the role of contemplative prayer? What role does this kind of prayer play in your spiritual life? What disciplines does Henri see as necessary for attaining communion with God?

5. Henri sees the desire for power as the most seductive of all temptations. Describe your own experience of this temptation.

6. Why does Henri see power as an illusion? Why is power incapable of giving us security?

7. Discuss the relationship between powerlessness and compassion.

8. Henri states “that in serving God we find our true self which no longer needs social affirmations but is free to offer a powerless ministry” (p. 65). How does the life of Jesus illustrate this kind of ministry? What might such a ministry look like in our world today?

He must increase, but I must decrease. (John 3:30)

We Are Witnesses for Christ – Mirroring Christ

Fr. Christopher Metropulos
November 4, 2012

Book Reference
The Selfless Way of Christ
Downward Mobility and the Spiritual Life
By Henri J. M. Nouwen

Opening thoughts and basis for discussion

Something which existed since the beginning, that we have heard and we have seen with our own eyes; that we have watched and touched with our hands; the Word, who is life–this is our subject. (1 John 1:1)

1. To be a witness for Christ you must first know him. What ways can you employ in your life to do this? In what ways do you see yourself as a Christian witness?

2. How have you experienced the “pervasive drive for upward mobility” in your own life? “There is a profound difference between the false ambition for power and the true ambition to love and serve”. Henri Nouwen.

3. In what ways does our society punish those who can’t or won’t keep up with the quest for upward mobility?

4. How is downward mobility manifested at the center of Christian faith?

5. What does it mean to live as a disciple of Jesus?

6. Why does a simple imitation of how Jesus lived represent a misunderstanding of the truth revealed in Christ?

7. What is the spiritual life? In what sense is this a gift rather than something we achieve by our own efforts?

Conclusion

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness, and self control are indeed the qualities of our Lord himself and reveal his presence in the midst of a world so torn apart by idolatry, envy, greed, sexual irresponsibility, war and other sin. (Gal. 5:19-23)