As a Christian Family, God has promised each of us eternal life in heaven at his side. It is our faith in Jesus Christ that helps us walk that path to eternal salvation. As we make our journey in life, God has asked us to live our lives in the way that Jesus lived. This is not an easy journey, but a very worthwhile journey. As we contemplate Discipleship, God is asking each one of us to take small steps forward on that journey towards salvation. Each week as we read the Gospels, we hear God’s Word speak to us about the seven steps of Discipleship. God is not asking you to change your life drastically. He just asks that you take small steps toward discipleship. As you study each step, please think of “small” changes that you can take in your everyday life that will reflect your love for God.
There are seven components of discipleship. Some of the suggested activities might already be a part of your routine. THIS IS GREAT! Think of a way then to take an additional small step. Your ownership of, and input into this process is vital. This is all about your personal relationship with Christ!
Small steps for CELEBRATION
Making a commitment to celebrate my faith with my community through Mass and Eucharist
• Try to meet your Sunday obligation by going to Mass and receiving Eucharist with your faith community each week if you are not currently doing so. (Or, at least make it to mass one more week a month than you are now.)
If you are already going to Mass in community each Sunday, consider trying one of the following small steps:
• Make a special “date” with God: try adding in just one daily Mass a month on your calendar.
• If you are in the habit of leaving Mass early, try staying until Mass is over as your small step.
• If you are often late for Mass, take a small step to come five minutes early for prayer.
• Try to read and reflect on the Sunday Gospel BEFORE you come to Mass each week so you can more deeply participate in the focus of that week’s Celebration.
• If you have trouble listening or paying attention to any particular part of the Mass, try to concentrate on that part as your small step.
• After receiving Communion, try to concentrate throughout the reflection time on our Lord’s presence within you.
• If you have difficulty during Mass reaching out to others during the “handshake of peace”, take a small step to warmly greet everyone you can during the time allotted.
• After every Mass you attend, try to stay a few minutes to visit in the Gathering Space with other community members– especially those you don’t already know.
• If you have children at home and getting ready for Mass is often hectic and unpleasant, try a little harder to make the family experience of going to Mass something positive that will encourage their future Mass participation as adults.
• If your family often attends different Sunday Masses, try celebrating together more regularly.
• If you are not receiving Eucharist because of shame or guilt over a particular sin, free yourself for Eucharist by going to Reconciliation.
Small Steps for PRAYER
Prioritizing God in my life by creating the opportunity to speak to my Lord each day.
• Start every day with a simple greeting to God. Example: “Good morning, God. Please help me to do your will today.”
• Say a short “Grace” before you begin to eat a meal. Or start small and say Grace just once a day before a specific meal (i.e. BREAKFAST or DINNER)
• Pick a short prayer that you will say silently each time you come to a red light while driving, are riding on an elevator at work each day, or even while you are showering or blow-drying your hair!
• Pick any routine chore that you do each day and use it to help you remember to say a specific prayer BEFORE you begin the chore. (Examples: while you are waiting for the computer to boot up; when you start to prepare a family meal.)
• Pick a specific time when, each day, you will stop everything and say the Lord’s Prayer. (Example: 12:00 Noon or 6:00PM, or even 7:26 AM!)
• Place a booklet of small prayers where it can be seen daily. Try to say just one.
• Use a prayer book to silently recite prayers while you lie down with your children until they fall asleep, or right before you go to sleep. Say a prayer whenever you are alone in the car. Or say a prayer in the car together with your children on a specific short trip that you do regularly. (Example: drive to school; to a certain lesson; to church, etc.)
Small Steps for REFLECTION
Committing to spending time listening to God each day, in order to hear and receive the grace of the Holy Spirit needed to live according to His will.
• Listening to God through His Word in the Bible. (Example: Read one line, or one verse from the Gospels each day; Get a “Bible Verse Calendar” and reflect on the daily verse.) Take one small step to read even just one line a day.
• Try “listening prayer” by setting aside a brief daily quiet time when you don’t do the talking – but let God talk.
• Try to hear God speaking to you through other people, especially through the Church — “the pillar and bulwark of truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). (Example: Take one small step to follow a church teaching you find difficult to follow in your life; Read the Catholic Messenger weekly or another Catholic publication.)
• Listen for a prophetic word from God in the daily Eucharistic readings, which often speak to your daily needs.
• Listen for God’s Word in the events of your daily life. “If we are under Jesus’ lordship, everything has meaning. (Even if we sin, He will take over the situation, if we have repented our part). – Bishop Garland
• Join a Bible study that meets regularly; perhaps even by e-mail!
• Place a book of spiritual reflections or a “reflections calendar” where you can remember to read one brief reflection each day.
• Set a day of the week when you take time to stop into Church for just one or two minutes of reflection, instead of just passing by.
• One small step is just staying in bed one minute before you rise or before you sleep, thinking of all you have to be grateful for. (Example: Make a “gratitude list” every day at a set time – this brings GREAT change! Or add to a daily meal prayer a personal reflection on all you have to be grateful for.)
Small Steps for THANKSGIVING
Acknowledging that all good gifts ultimately come from God. We show our gratitude through sharing our time, talents, and gifts with our church community.
A small step in the Thanksgiving of Discipleship is about more than just giving money to your Christian Community:
• Thanksgiving is sharing for the reasons Christ taught us as His disciples: …for our own spiritual growth and gratitude; …to fulfill God’s work on earth.
• And Thanksgiving in Discipleship is sharing in the way Christ taught the early Christians to share: …it is not just giving because of need, — it is sharing, honestly and generously, in thanksgiving of all God has given us, and in trust of the Lord to always provide; …it is prioritizing a set percentage of all we receive – sharing it first in faith and trust of God.
• In Thanksgiving, the early Christians shared at least 10% of their “first fruits” – and many shared everything!
But a good first “small step” in Discipleship is to prioritize God over our money by just sharing FIRST, in ANY percentage that equals a little more than we are currently giving – no matter how small.
• If you already share first in Thanksgiving a percentage of all you receive, try this small step: Increase this percentage to a little more than you are comfortable sharing. Do this in faith and trust in the Lord — especially if it is scary to trust the Lord that much.
• If you already share your money first, already share from gratitude, and have no problem giving beyond a 10% tithe, then take a small step in your willingness as a Disciple: Try to also share your possessions in Thanksgiving, acknowledging this is why He gave them to you.
Small Steps for RELATIONSHIPS
Making a commitment to improve relationships with others by being kind and loving to specific people in our lives.
• Pick a time when you will regularly say “I love you” or “God bless you” or “God and I love you very much”. (Example: Pick a set time such as each time you greet or leave them, or before sleep, or even when you pick them up or drop them off in the car.)
• “Bless” them once a day or whenever you visit by touching them and saying, “I bless you in the name of Christ”. (Example: Pick a set time or recurring circumstance for this.)
• Pray a short prayer alone with your spouse at least once a day. Pray silently together if you cannot bring yourselves to pray aloud. (Example: When you wake up or go to bed, or before work, or when you return home from work; On the phone at a set time each day if your work schedules keep you apart)
• Pray a short prayer together with each child separately at least once a day.
• If you have an aging parent, pray a short prayer either together or for them in their presence – or a simple “I love you” each time you come or go.
• Each time you see a person with whom you are not getting along, try to smile and greet them as you would greet Christ.
• Whenever you see a person, try to do an “extra” kind act for them. (Example: A courtesy such as serve their coffee – or even empty a co-workers wastebasket; Each separate time they have a specific tedious chore come up in your presence, offer to do it for them; Start being more polite with them such as saying “please” and “thank you” – and meaning it!)
• If you cannot do a loving deed for a person, pray for that person to have all that you would want for yourself – and pray for yourself that God forgives your ill feelings toward them, regardless of their part.
• Be kind but spiritually honest with the person if you feel they may have a serious spiritual problem that interferes with your relationship. (Example: Drug or Alcohol Problem; Physical or Verbal Abuse; Unchecked anger acted out in direct or indirect punishing ways; Chronic dishonesty.)
• If the person does not have an addiction or severe imbalance, express your regret to them that you are not closer. Then ask them what you can do to help change this — then listen. (We may not be able to meet all their needs but we can try to do for them those things that Christ would do.)
Small Steps for MINISTRY
Strengthening our faith community by supporting a parish ministry and/or project.
• Try to say “Yes” whenever asked to share your time and talents for a small or one-time hospitality task for the parish.
• If you don’t currently serve a parish ministry, think about your skills and talents, and call the Stewardship office to find out how you can use you time and talent in a parish ministry.
• Volunteer for a small additional task in a ministry to which you currently belong.
• Choose an extra small ministry for your small step.
• Decide to “lead” in a ministry, instead of just following.
• Step forward to serve for one year on a parish Commission.
• Since all of our time on earth is a gift to us from God, make sure you are “tithing” your time and talents in thanksgiving: translate into a percentage the time you are willing to give back to God through ministry. Then measure how well you met the percentage each week.
Small Steps for WITNESSING
Sharing my faith in Jesus with others in thought, word, and deed.
• Whenever someone tells us something good that has happened to them, use each opportunity to give some small thanks to God – out loud. (Examples: “You’ve been blessed!“; “Thank God!”; “Praise God”; or even “God is good!”)
• Whenever someone tells us something bad that has happened to them, use each opportunity to remind them in some small way that God is there for them. (Examples: “God will help”; “Don’t forget that God loves you“; “I will pray for you”; or even “God bless you.”; “With God all things are possible”)
• Whenever someone gives of themselves to us, use each opportunity to remind them that they are doing what God loves. (Examples: “God bless you”; “God loves you”; “You are such a good example of God’s love.”)
• Whenever someone shares that they are struggling with their faith, share with them a few of your own victories of faith.
• Whenever someone is in despair, give them hope with a simple sharing of God’s blessings. (Examples: “Don’t forget that God can heal this”; “God loves you, no matter what.”)
• Whenever anything is referred to in conversation as “luck”, decide to use the opportunity to speak the truth that “God works in mysterious ways.”
• Wear a cross or religious medal where it can be seen by others, admitting – even though silently — that you want to be a disciple of Christ.
• When you are asked what you “believe in”, be at least willing to admit that you strive to be a disciple of Christ — that you have a personal faith, important enough, to be willing to share in His name.
• Just be willing to mention God in some small way, at any time, with anyone, who could possibly gain from the reminder.
Our parish family asks you to spend this year taking small steps toward discipleship. We will all fail sometimes. But we will all be there to encourage each other to simply start again. Please pray about this opportunity to become a closer disciple of Christ. It will change your life.