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07/29/18 Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Fr. Reggie

In today’s readings, Our Lord reminds us that disciples know they always have something to learn and to pass along to the people that they help. Christians never stop being disciples; Our Lord always has something to teach us and is always there to help us.

In the First Reading Elisha, who was the disciple of the prophet Elijah, learned the miracle of the multiplication from his master. Elijah once asked a widow for the last bread she had to feed herself and her son (1 Kings 17:8-16), and when she explained her situation Elijah told her the Lord had promised to provide for them all, and so it came to be.  Elisha in today’s First Reading was doing something similar, but because the Lord promised to help him. The Lord said a miracle would happen, and it did. Just as the Lord had helped Elijah and the widow, Elisha knew to encourage his servant to begin handing out the bread, and the miracle happened. Prophets of the Lord, just like his disciples, know they are working with the Lord, not alone, helping him to do something for souls.

In today’s Second Reading Paul reminds us that in caring for others, as Elias learned from Elijah and the Apostles learned from Our Lord, we’re showing ourselves to be good disciples who listen and learn. We have to stop once in a while and remember how blessed we are to have been chosen by Our Lord to be his disciples. Our Lord not only teaches us how to treat others; he also teaches us how to treat each other. He’s always been quick to address and correct disciples that argue about who was the greatest or seek positions of privilege. We’re called to a lifestyle that can be challenging, but he’s empowered us to live it through his grace and the sacraments: humility, gentleness, patience, and faith.

The disciples in today’s Gospel are proactive: they know from Our Lord’s question that he wants to feed the people who came to see him, and it seems he’s asking them to make it happen. Phillip sees it as impossible, even if they had enough money to feed them, due to the size of the crowd.  Andrew at least starts asking around, but the resources come up short.  Both lost sight of the fact that Jesus said “we.” When we feel Our Lord is asking something difficult or impossible, we must remember that, like in today’s Gospel, he will be with us and help us.  We never stop being disciples, so the Master never abandons us to our mission. We just have to take it one step at a time, even when sometimes it seems difficult or impossible.  In the end, through taking things step by step and following his guidance, they helped Our Lord to make the miracle happen.

The Harvard Business Review in 2017 published some best practices for mentoring (source) that can shed a lot of light on discipleship.

  • Put the relationship before the mentorship. It’s our relationship with Our Lord that impacts our relationship with others. He’s focused on them without ever forgetting to care for us. Our Lord’s care and concern for us are unconditional, whether we decided to be his disciples or not.
  • Focus on character rather than competency. St. Paul in today’s Second Reading speaks of the qualities of a good disciple, not the results they should get. A proud, harsh, cynical disciple may get some short-term results, but he’ll leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth as he gets “results.”
  • Shout loudly with your optimism and keep quiet with your cynicism. Our Lord bears a message and a life of hope, even for the hopeless, and this translates into our outlook on our discipleship. The Apostles in today’s Gospel were perplexed by what Our Lord was asking, but, at the same time, they were trying to find a way to make it happen.
  • Be more loyal to your mentee than you are to your company. If we ever thought Our Lord was more interested in “the Church” than us our discipleship would not get very far. We follow him and imitate him because of the love he has for each one of us.

The Harvard Business Review suggested a rule for giving optimism a chance in a mentoring relationship (source): the 24x3 rule. Each time you hear a new idea, see if it is possible for you to spend 24 seconds, 24 minutes, or 24 hours thinking about all the reasons that the idea is good before you criticize any aspect of it.  It’s been said that the world prefers conventional failure over unconventional success; good mentors should encourage exploration of the latter.

 

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