I was struck by the words of a fifth century bishop by the name of Diadochus of Photice, who wrote, “The measure of a man’s love for God depends upon how deeply aware he is of God’s love for him.” These words have stayed with me, and I have since become convinced that the simplest way for any one of us to follow Jesus is to simply let Jesus love us first. Discipleship, by this definition, is God’s love received and God’s love shared. This definition is often exemplified in Scripture.
A disciple is shown resting his head on Christ so that others may know the joy of themselves resting on Christ. Another disciple takes time to sit at the feet of Jesus, listening to his voice so she can become his voice to others. When a disciple climbs a tree to see Jesus, he later has an encounter so powerful that he can clearly see Jesus in others. Discipleship is not meant to be complicated; rather, it’s meant to simply reflect God’s love by allowing God to love us first. We give what we receive, in word and action, reflecting God’s love. We disciples become, to use the words of poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, “like shining from shook foil.”
A disciple shines Christ’s love, but we Christians do not always shine in our world. Sometimes, it becomes difficult for us to follow Jesus or share his love with others. The simplicity of his love becomes complicated by the “If only” or “When I” conditions we place on it – “If only I didn’t … then God would love me.” How easy it is for us to disbelieve that God’s love is unconditional. With sin, we become reticent to move with Christ, finding excuses to stay where we are or to move away from him. Let us pray that the Year of Mercy helps all sinners see the truth that there is no sin which Christ’s love cannot conquer, and no sin his mercy cannot forgive.
The merciful love of Jesus, the love that thirsts for our discipleship, is his greatest desire. Mercy simplifies so many of life’s complications, and I think Jesus prefers simplicity. Discipleship loves others with the simple love of Jesus. That is why the simplest way for any one of us to follow Jesus as his disciple is to allow Jesus to love us first.