Tag Archives: obedience

Pope Francis shows the import of Blessed John XXIII on his anniversary of death

Bergamo prays for John 23.jpg

Dear friends of the Diocese of Bergamo,

I am pleased to welcome you here, at the tomb of the Apostle Peter, in this place that is home to every Catholic. I affectionately greet your Pastor, Bishop Francesco Beschi, and thank him for the kind words he addressed to me on behalf of all.

Exactly fifty years ago, just at this moment, Blessed John XXIII left this world. Those who, like me, [are of] a certain age, retain a vivid memory of the commotion that spread everywhere in those days: St. Peter’s Square had become a sanctuary in the open, day and night welcoming the faithful of all ages and social conditions, in trepidation and prayer for the Pope’s health. The whole world had recognized in Pope John a pastor and a father: a shepherd because [he was] father. What made him such? How could he reach the hearts of so many different people, even many non-Christians? To answer this question, we can refer to his episcopal motto, oboedientia et pax: obedience and peace. “These words,” noted the then-Archbishop Roncalli on the eve of his episcopal ordination, “are [in a way] my story and my life.” (Journal of a Soul, retreat in preparation for consecration as bishop, 13-17 March 1925).

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What is the cost of Discipleship?

The feast of Saint Andrew sparks the question in my heart about the nature –cost of discipleship. What is “discipleship” and what is its cost? Why is there a cost? Truth be told, obedience to the Gospel is not easy. Following the Lord is not easy when there are pressures from within and from without that say “go the other way” or “don’t be bothered, no one else is.” If one really wants to walk the path that leads to happiness, how does one do this? The monastic life which I am now trying to lead asks the same questions. There are days that the life is beautiful; there are days in which it’s a nuissance (to say the least). Doing the will of God must be easy, clear and satisfying for some people. I can’t always say the same. I think of the call of Andrew and Peter and what they must have felt and thought and did…


St Andrew and Peter's calling.jpgThe Cost of Discipleship

Dietrich Bonhoeffer


The call of Jesus goes forth, and is at once followed by the response of obedience. The response of the disciples is an act of obedience, not a confession of faith in Jesus. How could the call immediately evoke obedience?


The story of the call of the first disciples is a stumbling-block to our natural reason, and it is no wonder that frantic attempts have been made to separate the two events. By hook or by crook a bridge must be found between them. Something must have happened in between, some psychological or historical event. Thus we get the stupid question: Surely the disciples must have known Jesus before, and that previous acquaintance explains their readiness to hear the Master’s call. Unfortunately our text is ruthlessly silent on this point, and in fact it regards the immediate sequence of call and response as a matter of crucial importance. It displays not the slightest interest in the psychological reasons for a person’s religious decisions. And why? For the simple reason that the cause behind the immediate following of call by response is Jesus Christ himself. It is Jesus who calls, and because it is Jesus, the disciple follows at once.


This encounter is a testimony to the absolute, direct, and unaccountable authority of Jesus. There is no need of any preliminaries, and no other consequence but obedience to the call. Because Jesus is the Christ, he has the authority to call and to demand obedience to his word. Jesus summons us to follow him not as a teacher of a pattern of the good life, but as the Christ, the Son of God. In this short text Jesus Christ and his claim are proclaimed to the world. Not a word of praise is given to the disciple for his decision for Christ. We are not expected to contemplate the disciple, but only him who calls, and his absolute authority. According to our text, there is no road to faith or discipleship, no other road -only obedience to the call of Jesus.


And what does the text inform us about the content of discipleship? Follow me, run along behind me! That is all. To follow in Christ’s steps is something which is void of all content. It gives us no intelligible programme for a way of life, no goal or ideal to strive after. When we are called to follow Christ, we are summoned to an exclusive attachment to his person. The grace of his call bursts all the bonds of legalism. It is a gracious call, a gracious commandment. It transcends the difference between the law and the gospel. Christ calls the disciples follows; that is grace and commandment in one.


(Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, English trans. R. H. Fuller, London, 1959, pp. 48-9.)


About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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