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The Process of Discipleship and Transformation

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There is a famous episode of a circus clown, who noticed a fire and went to call for help. The conclusion is well known to most of the audience. There is yet another very interesting episode related to the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. This episode is related not to the finding of the Cross of Jesus by St. Helena, but to the return of the Cross from the Persian Empire. The emperor Heraclius wanted to carry the cross on his back as Jesus had done as per the Gospels, but could not even move a step because of the weight and as if someone was holding him down. The Patriarch, then told the Emperor, that Jesus carried the Cross on his bare and wounded body. The emperor took off all his royal attire and then he was able to carry – Exalt the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

When you talk of discipleship as a journey towards a total transformation of yourself, you need to keep this episode in the forefront. Transformation first of all is not for my self-esteem. Dying to self and living for Christ or letting him live in you is not a matter of pride, it is very painful. St. Paul himself and other disciples as mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles rejoiced, not when people were converted and baptized, but they rejoiced when they were beaten up at the order of the Sanhedrin or by the ordinary people.

Discipleship as a path to transformation is not a journey to mount Tabor for a glorious transfiguration, but a journey down the mountain of glory and up the mountain of Calvary. The disciples were transformed in their missionary calling along this path to Calvary – carrying the cross on their bare and wounded bodies.

Supernatural grace is met or received when you are on this path of shame, defeat, personal struggles and sinfulness. Along the mission path in Russia, the graceful moments have been those moments, when you felt tired and exhausted, when you felt you are not needed here – that is exactly when Christ could really enter, when you started fading away, He could shine his Light. That was the moment, when not I, but he acted, he forgave, he healed, he smiled.

Such a life, such a call is precious indeed. But to be able to proclaim God’s Word – i.e. Jesus, we need to fearlessly and even without shame embrace the failures, falls, rejections, and limits of our life and in our life. Only then will God be able to make us his mouthpiece, then we can like John the Baptist show to the people where Christ is, or indeed, Christ will show himself in us, in a wounded, defeated us.

Fr.Harald Jude Menezes, SVD


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