By Karen Sheehy
“Where’s the nuts and bolts,” I heard my husband ask one night in December. It was December 21st and he was assembling my son’s Christmas morning present, a shiny new bicycle. I walked over to help, lifted-up the bike package, and immediately found the hardware taped along its inner edge. Predictably, my husband continued assembling the bike by instinct, for he was a mechanical engineer and in no need of directions. Although I admired his intuitive spirit, I had seen my fair share of mishaps in its wake. Today’s readings brought back this Christmas memory, as I heard the Lord say, “be sure to read the directions and always remember the nuts and bolts of Christian discipleship.”
At first glance, these readings seem specifically directed towards Church leadership. However, upon further review, we find instructions for all Christians, for each of us is called to spread the good news of the gospel and live a life of personal holiness. “You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers. You have but one master, the Christ,” (Mt 23:8 and 10). This personal call in no way eliminates our required obedience to Church authority, but simply holds us accountable for our actions and their impact on others. When speaking about the Pharisees of His time, Christ said, “Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens…but do not lift a finger to move them,” (Mt 23:3-4).
So, what are the nuts and bolts of Christian discipleship and how do we live a life of holiness in service to our master, Jesus, Christ? Fortunately for us, Christ has given us an instruction manual in the Church’s Sacred Scripture and Oral Tradition. Additionally, as Catholics, we are blessed with many pious and dedicated leaders, holy men and women, who serve the Church and instruct us in ways of holiness. It is up to us to look to these leaders and to God’s instruction manual to help us avoid the unnecessary pitfalls often experienced when venturing off on our own.
Today’s readings highlight many of the “nuts and bolts” of Christian discipleship. In the book of Malachi, God instructs the Jews to listen to His commandments, lay them in their hearts, give glory to His name, and avoid partiality in the treatment of others. Gentleness and humble service are highlighted in St. Paul’s words to the Thessalonians, “we were gentle among you, as a nursing mother cares for her children. With such affection for you, we were determined to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our very selves as well,” (1Thes 2:7-8).
St. Paul’s “sharing of self” reminds me of the best part of that Christmas evening mentioned above, for not only was my husband assembling our son’s Christmas bike, but also two others for needy children in our Church Parish. This simple love or pouring out of self is perhaps the most important bolt of Christian discipleship. This is what today’s first reading meant by “laying” the commandments of God “in your hearts,” (Mal 2:2). St. Paul eludes to this “sharing or pouring out of self” for others when saying, “in receiving the word of God from hearing us, you received not a human word, but the word of God which is now at work in you who believe,” (1Thes 2:13).
This is good news, for Christ is at work in those who believe. He is at work in you and me. And although spiritual instruction is helpful, it is not necessary when it comes to love. Love is instinctual. It is a matter of the heart and soul. Filled with the Spirit of love, we Christians must find a way to share this love with others. Ironically, all three Christmas bikes turned out perfect. Filled with love, my husband’s hands created great joy for three children that Christmas morning, the very day which celebrates God’s pouring forth of love into our world.
About the Author:
Karen Sheehy is a devout Catholic, wife and mother, motivational speaker, blogger and developer of spiritualsafariguide.com, your passport to a world of spiritual inspiration and understanding. To learn more about Karen Sheehy and her upcoming book entitled, The Healing Eyes of Mercy. A Journey Towards the Light of God’s Love, visit http://www.spiritualsafariguide.com