“He looks, acts, and even walks like you.” This is probably one of the most common statements made when someone who knows me well meets my son. I can never tell if they mean it as a compliment or not, but I have to admit it’s true. One thing in this that I know for sure is a compliment is the fact that my son is like me because I have taught him so much. Yes, even the fact that he walks on his tiptoes is a sign that he has watched me and has essentially become like me!
I’ve heard this said about many of the people that I mentor in the faith. They say a lot of the same things as I do. They see things the way that I see them and often respond to things, especially in their spiritual life, the way that I have taught them to. While it’s very humbling, it’s fascinating and a little scary at the same time. The influence that a teacher has on one of their “disciples” changes a lot about a person. This was also true in the time of Christ as men would become disciples of a rabbi. In fact, that was essentially the goal of discipleship, to become like the master. To see and understand things the way that the master did, to come to know and to be able to do the things that the master did.
In the sixth chapter of Sirach we get some great insights into how one becomes a disciple:
If you are willing, my son, you will be taught,
and if you apply yourself you will become clever.
If you love to listen you will gain knowledge,
and if you incline your ear you will become wise.
Stand in the assembly of the elders.
Who is wise? Cleave to him.
Be ready to listen to every narrative,
and do not let wise proverbs escape you.
If you see an intelligent man, visit him early;
let your foot wear out his doorstep.
Reflect on the statutes of the Lord,
and meditate at all times on his commandments.
It is he who will give insight to your mind,
and your desire for wisdom will be granted.
Becoming someone’s disciple requires effort and an initiative on the part of the disciple. In a general sense, we can become disciples of pretty much anyone, good or bad. Those who know me know that I consider myself a disciple of St. Francis de Sales. I also have a great love for St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. Teresa of Avila. I have spent a great deal of time “at their feet,” learning from them. Over time, I start to see things the way that they saw them. I start to speak like them, act like them, and even pray like them.
There are also living people that I have started to take the shape of. The bishop that I currently serve is someone who has passed on to me a greater openness to the ways that God desires to work in my life. There are financial advisors, political commentators, and even good friends that I have “inclined my ear” towards and have become wiser as a result.
I love the line in this passage though that states, “Stand in the assembly of the elders. Who is wise? Cleave to him.” To become someone’s disciple is to get very close to them in order to gain what they have. Whether that be knowledge, wisdom, patience, etc. My encouragement to you today is to consider individuals in your life that you are intrigued by and would like to get to know more. Whether it’s a mentor in your church, a relative, or a Saint in heaven, I encourage you to “visit them early and let your foot wear out their doorstep.”
I can honestly say that St. Francis de Sales is one of my best friends and mentors. What I have received from him has helped to deeply transform my spiritual life at the very core. Over time, I have become like St. Francis de Sales in how he sees and loves God.
Who is God calling you to “cleave” to?