By Debbie Shelley

The Catholic Commentator 

Dr. Edward Sri encouraged Catholics to plunge into the mysteries of living authentic Christian love and being a disciple during a visit to the Diocese of Baton Rouge on Jan. 29-30.  

edward sri photo.jpeg

Dr. Edward Sri

 

Sri, the founding leader of Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), spoke at St. Ann Church in Morganza, the Catholic Life Center in Baton Rouge and Christ the King Church and Catholic Center at LSU.  

At the Catholic Life Center, Sri talked about missionary discipleship.   

Sri said a good picture of discipleship is portrayed in Michaelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio’s painting, “The Calling of St. Matthew.”  

In the painting, the man commonly identified as St. Matthew is with four other men in the tax revenue office when Jesus walks in and points to St. Matthew in a “follow me” gesture. Jesus is surrounded by light, as the light of the world, and steps into St. Matthew’s darkness. He appears to be pointing to his chest as if asking, “Me?”  

“I love the expression of Matthew’s face, it shows conflicting emotions,” Sri said.  

St. Matthew is shocked –  “I am a tax collector, (and have taken advantage of and hated by the Jews) are you sure you want me to follow you?”  

 But he also appears to be thinking about it. He knows his life will be drastically changed and is not sure he wants to do it,” Sri said.  

“This is the difficult moment of struggle between Matthew the tax collector and Matthew the disciple,” said Sri. 

People have those intense moments when Jesus asks them to come closer to him. They must decide whether to follow Jesus or the ways of the world.   

“We all have to constantly renew our encounter with Jesus,” Sri said. “Do we feel the call to love him and serve him more?”  

The best definition of discipleship is “imitation,” according to Sri.  

In the first century, Jewish world rabbis invited disciples to learn his way of life. Disciples walked “in the dust of the rabbis’ sandals.”  

Some Catholics commend themselves for attending Sunday Mass and following the rules and practices of the faith but that is only the beginning, according to Sri.  

He noted many subway systems have an audible or visual “mind the gap” message warning rail passengers to be cautious crossing the gap between the train and the station platform.  

Applied spiritually, this means being aware of areas where one needs conversion, such as giving children, family members or neighbors needed attention; taking time for daily prayer; and how they get from where they are to where God needs them to be.  

Sri mused the “universal call to holiness” has a mystique that could be set to a “Star Trek” theme song. 

He drew from his experiences as a father of eight children to illustrate the call to holiness.  

He recalled the time his daughter Eleanor wanted to jump to him. He coaxed her, “You can do this.” But lacking coordination, her feet would not leave the ground and she became frustrated.  

Likewise, adults, as grown children of God, may feel like they are “stuck” and their spiritual life is not taking off. At that point it is important to not get discouraged. 

Sri also pointed to the story of the apostle St. Peter denying he knew Jesus during his passion. After Pentecost, St. Peter went to jail and died for his faith in Jesus.  Sri further noted one doesn’t have to be perfect to be holy. 

He talked about the time his daughter Josephine was a young child and proudly said, “Here Daddy,” and handed him a page with scribbles on it. He asked her what is was and she said, “It’s a picture of you.”  

“I never (raised my voice and) said, ‘That’s a terrible picture. Don’t you ever do that again until you get it perfect.’ I was able to see what was in her heart,” said Sri.  

He said after Jesus’ resurrection he asked St. Peter three times, “Do you love me?” St. Peter couldn’t look him in the eye, but with a sincere heart said, “Lord, you know I love you.”  Jesus called him to lead his church.  

When one thinks their spiritual life is not taking off and sees only their failures, profound moments of grace happen because God sees their hearts, Sri said. God meets them in what St. Therese of Lisieux called “the fertile valley of humility.”  

Sri concluded by saying discipleship leads to being a missionary disciple.  

He said church leaders see a need for evangelization in their own congregation. He said leaders understand a person who has “surrendered their lives to God” does not describe the average person showing up on Sunday.  

Those in faith formation and ministry must share the ABCs of church history and their own stories and live their faith, Sri said.  

Missionary disciples teach others so they can teach others, according to Sri. They reach out to those on the peripheries and proclaim the Gospel.  

He said when Pope Francis called for the church to be “a church with open doors,” it means the doors also swing out so members can serve and evangelize others.  

“Discipleship is continued accompaniment of others,” Sri said.