SKETCH OF A MISSIONARY DISCIPLE OF JESUS CHRIST
God is first for them. Their relationship with God influences everything they do. They have encountered the love of God and are transformed by that love. They are committed to Jesus and his mission.
Often they have had a profound conversion experience. There is a marked difference between their spiritual life before and after. This may have happened in a moment or over a longer period of time. They have been influenced by other sincere Christians. There is a heart component; they experience peace, joy, contrition, and sometimes tears. They experience healing of past hurts. There is a mind component of clarity and conviction.
Spiritual things are no longer boring. Mass becomes engaging, and the sacraments in general are experienced as an encounter with Christ. Often, they will read the Bible or other religious books or listen to Catholic radio or watch Catholic TV/videos and they can’t seem to get enough. It is interesting to them. They want to understand. They enjoy religious music.
They learn the stories of the saints and are fascinated and inspired. They are moved by these stories to become holier. They realize their own sinfulness and brokenness, but they trust that with God’s grace they can become saints to some degree.
They experience liberation from some habitual sin. In other parts of their life, they may have an ongoing struggle to overcome bad habits. But they recognize the grace of God empowering them for the good. For example, where they would usually be annoyed by someone they are able to see that person with love and mercy; in situations that would usually cause them great frustration, they are more serene.
Some pre-conversion relationships take on less importance. The new disciple senses a certain distance with some people in their lives who are not believers. They become close friends with other disciples and experience an intimate unity in the bond of faith with others.
They find it easier to be generous and serve. They engage in a faith community and serve and experience satisfaction in serving, even though it is sometimes difficult. They give a larger portion of their income to support the Church and the poor.
They understand their story and connect it with God’s story. They can look back in their life on certain decisions, choices, and events and see God’s hand. They find meaning in suffering and recognize that it can help them become holier. They can identify events in their life with events from salvation history.
They pray often. They are able to hear God. They recognize certain insights and resolutions as being inspired by God. They recognize the presence of God throughout their day. Daily life is an adventure as God continuously calls and teaches and encourages them.
They may experience some tension between their secular work and their spiritual life, but they strive for unity of life. They don’t want to put their relationship with God in a box. They pray for people at work and in their family, and share their faith with others.
This process may be interrupted at some point and not be brought to full flowering. At some point, the honeymoon is over, and they start to experience dryness in prayer. They may get burned out in serving. Difficulties pile up and may lead them to be discouraged. They may revert to pre-conversion habits and mindset. Yet their soul has been touched by God; they know what it was like to be in a close relationship with God and can get back on track. In this case, their new state is better because they have greater spiritual maturity and do not seek God for the feelings but rather make a decision to be faithful to God in any season.
Key to perseverance is the maintenance of the habits of discipleship: prayer (including sacraments and daily personal prayer), study, fellowship (close relationships with other Christians characterized by mutual support and accountability) fasting and related practices of self-denial, giving (time, talent, treasure), intentionality in growing in virtue, and evangelization (sharing the faith with others).