The Way of the Disciple
Friday Book Pick: The Way of the Disciple by Erasmo Leivia-Merikakis
Compared to his mammoth three-volume commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, this small book is certainly less intimidating (and less expensive). Slim though it is, this one volume is a wonderful sampling of Erasmo Leivia-Merikakis’s best ideas in concentrated form! Merikakis, now a Trappist monk known as Fr. Simeon, has a penetrating way of expressing spiritual concepts, and like a master teacher, he is able to make eternal truths accessible. Writing skills of this caliber require a passion for God and an understanding of man—both of which he seems to possess to a high degree.
The Way of the Disciple is an excellent book for the Easter season. The reason I say this is because it helps us respond well to the experience of living the Triduum and Easter. Celebrating Holy Week convicts us of our profound need for a Savior—all over again—and contemplating Jesus’ self-offering on Good Friday makes us fall in love with Him anew. The Easter Vigil leaves us overawed at the unfolding of the plan of God and at the possibility of life everlasting. The whole celebration of the paschal mystery provokes a fresh new “yes” from our inmost hearts. In this season of resurrection, as the Church awaits a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit, we want to become better disciples of the One Who suffered and died for us, don’t we? We want to become good and faithful friends of Jesus Who was abandoned by his friends in His Passion and continues to be abandoned in empty churches, in the poor, the elderly, the unborn, and in a thousand sorrowful ways. We desire to commit to Jesus more than ever, even with sacrifice…don’t we? I know I do. Conversion is ongoing—a work of a lifetime. And the liturgical cycle corresponds to our need to renew our commitments, refocus our priorities, and rekindle our love. So, as you consider your own life of discipleship, this book is ideal spiritual reading.
The Way of the Disciple is actually a kind of manual for discipleship. Not a “how to” manual touting “five easy steps” to being a better Christian, but rather, a meditation manual that illuminates principles of discipleship from the gospels. The first teaching point in the first chapter instructs us in the manner in which we are to dispose ourselves to receiving the gospel. Merikakis shows us from the Scriptures that we are to be as the ground that receives the rain or as wet clay in the hands of the Potter, “available to his hands, ever ready to mold.” The only way to do this, to become soft formable clay retaining the shape and form given by the Potter, Merikakis explains, “is to become ever more attentive, ever more docile. Pondering God’s Word is the concrete manner in which the soul becomes more and more malleable to the stress of God’s hands. One cannot be a disciple without being attentive, without the ability and willingness to listen profoundly and perseveringly, really listening from the center of one’s being to what is being said to him personally by God.” As one who understands human nature, Merikakis goes on to say, “This is easier said than done and is in fact quite impossible without the daily concrete attempt to practice attentive interior listening.”
After the first lesson of how be like soft clay, Merikakis goes on to outline five elements that constitute discipleship: (1) solitude with Jesus; (2) His freedom in choosing us; (3) our response to His call; (4) the shared life with Jesus and other disciples; and (5) the mission Jesus imparts to teach and heal.
Strong is his point throughout the book that discipleship is not primarily about doing God’s work, but rather it is about yielding to the work God is accomplishing in the disciple. The book concludes with a penetratingly insightful chapter on Our Lady, which leaves no doubt about her vital position in the life of the disciples—and thereby the Church—then and now.
The disciples of Jesus were—and are—chosen by Him simply because He desires them. “Jesus called those whom He desired” (Mk 3:15). This is a good place to begin this holy Eastertide. Recognizing that He is calling you because He wants you. The Way of the Disciple will help you to respond to the One Who calls you by name.
Mother Clare, CFR