How can I be more ‘A Disciple of Christ’ in my own life

Letter from Bishop Dewane:

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Just past the midpoint of Advent, we all have been provided an initial time of fruitful preparation for the coming of Christ into our hearts and homes. As we look toward the end of Advent and the coming of Christmas, the call to become “A Disciple of Christ” in a new way should come to mind each day. This Advent, the Diocese of Venice launched a campaign to be “A Disciple of Christ,” to invite Christ in a personal and transformative way into our hearts that leads us to follow Him intentionally and willfully.  At this time, it is fitting to find newness in our relationship with Christ, to ask oneself, “How can I be more ‘A Disciple of Christ’ in my own life’?”

This beginning allows each of us a fresh start as well as a focal point which, of course, is Christ Himself. In the words of St. Gregory of Nyssa, “He who climbs never stops going from beginning to beginning, through beginnings that have no end. He never stops desiring what he already knows.” This is what it means to both become and to be a disciple, since it is Christ that we desire and His love that we know. It is never too late to begin anew, to follow Christ and invite Him into our hearts.

The Season of Advent began with the focus on the Second Coming of Christ, when He comes in glory to judge the living and the dead. The portion of the Season which we are entering now sets its gaze on the first coming, the coming of the Christ Child. With roughly a week left of Advent and in view of the quickly approaching Christmas Season, why not up our game? Make the most of the opportunity of preparation for the coming of the Christ Child into our own lives. Our beginning points may be different, as St. Gregory told us, but we continue to move from beginning to beginning so that Christ may be born in our hearts again and again.

The Gospel of Luke tells us of the Archangel Gabriel’s announcement of the coming of Christ. Mary, in a special way, displays what it means to be a disciple, and she is, in fact, the first “Disciple of Christ.” When she hears the Word of God spoken to her, she responds in faith, exclaiming, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word” (cf. Luke 1:38). This is the essence of living the Gospel: “may it be done to me according to your word”; it is an acceptance and a response to God.  In this way, all ought to be “A Disciple of Christ,” eager to receive His call and respond with love and faith. Then let us act and boldly allow Christ to take precedence in our lives in every respect.

Another example to be taken from this is the hearing and listening to God’s Word. How often do we allow the Bible to collect dust on the coffee table or on a bookshelf? Jesus said that His sheep hear His voice, He knows them, and they follow Him (cf. John 10:27). In this Season of preparation and in the following Season of Christmas, open your Bible with your family. “Take and read” as the Lord spoke to St. Augustine.  In this you will find the “words of eternal life” (cf. John 6:68) present in Our Lord who is “the Way, and the Truth, and the Life” (cf. John 14:6) and you will know what it means to be “A Disciple of Christ.”

Looking toward the end of Advent and preparing for the coming of the Christ Child, be always aware of His Second Coming; be prepared to meet Christ as a disciple. Recognize the ways that He gives His love and respond to that love!

I wish you a fruitful remainder of the Advent Season and indeed a very Blessed and Merry Christmas! Know that you are in my prayers and please keep me in your prayers as we prepare for the coming of Christ into our hearts so as to be “A Disciple of Christ.”

Sincerely yours in Christ,

+Frank J. Dewane

Letter from Bishop: You are called to be ‘A Disciple of Christ’

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

With Advent on the horizon, we ought to prepare our hearts for the coming of Jesus. This Season of anticipation and longing allows all of us to welcome God’s invitation to become A Disciple of Christ. This brings to mind the disciples in the early Church and the great sacrifice that they lived day in and day out.

The call to be A Disciple of Christ thus requires a response from you!  It may involve speaking out, giving up certain things in your life, or even taking on extra responsibilities. But the reality is, and Pope Francis has said this well, “We cannot be tepid disciples. The Church needs our courage in order to give witness to truth.”

Beginning with the Advent Season of 2019 and to celebrate the 35th Anniversary of the Diocese of Venice, the Diocese is launching a campaign for all to become A Disciple of Christ. The campaign will run through the Liturgical Seasons beginning with Advent, then Christmas, a portion of Ordinary Time, Lent, Easter, and concluding with Pentecost. These Seasons allow each of us to discover and experience what it means to be A Disciple of Christ. The Liturgical Calendar provides an emphasis on how to live during each Season with its special focus; how to personally follow Jesus and become more united to Him in the daily life of each Liturgical Season.

To be A Disciple of Christ does not mean only to follow Him in external practices and the traditions of the Church, but to respond to Jesus from the heart in loving obedience and trust. We remember the rich young man who approached Jesus asking what must be done to inherit eternal life. Although he had followed the commandments since his youth, Jesus extols him to make sacrifices, sell his things, give to the poor, and follow Him (Cf. Matthew 19:21). This is more than just money, Jesus is calling the young man to rid himself of distractions and attachments in order to be A Disciple of Christ. The young man goes away sad, but that is the last heard of him in the Gospel.  To be a disciple, one must respond willfully and daily to Christ’s call and follow not only His teaching, but His example as well. Don’t go away sad, become A Disciple of Christ!

There is also an emphasis on that period of “becoming.” You may think, “I am already following Christ” but the call is to intentionally choose to become A Disciple of Christ each and every day. Every moment provides an opportunity to be filled with Christ’s love. Allow it to transform your heart and life. Then bring this love to your family, your friends, and as well to your enemies.

Opportunities to deepen your relationship with Christ, and thus to begin the journey to be a Disciple, are all around us. There are different prayer and/or study groups with which to be involved. There are areas of outreach to families, to the homeless, to the marginalized and those on the peripheries, as Pope Francis would tell us. Many Diocesan programs, conferences, and resources are also available to accompany you and enrich your journey.

It is understood that programs do not make disciples, but sometimes they are needed to help us become more, to live the Gospel. This “more” is meant to bring you deeper in your personal relationship with Christ in such a way that it becomes not merely a part of your life but frames you in all that you do.

In this Advent Season, be encouraged to take advantage of these steps, programs, and opportunities that lead you to be A Disciple of Christ. Take Christ into your home; take Christ into your heart! Prepare to receive Him in a new and transformative way this Season as we also look forward to His Second Coming, for in this life there is nothing of greater importance for us.

Rest assured of my prayers for you and your family and please keep me in your prayers as we continue our journey together to be evermore A Disciple of Christ.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Reverend Frank J. Dewane

Bishop of Venice in Florida