In September 2018, I began work as the ‘Parish Evangelisation Coordinator’ in my local parish. It was a new role, so there wasn’t a blueprint to follow and although there was a job description, that has long since ‘gone out the window’! On countless occasions since then, I have been reminded so often, of Marie Madeleine as she responded to the I thirst, heard on the feast of the Sacred Heart. The answer is never ‘No’, whether it be to someone wanting advice about how to begin reading Scripture or the third person that day who turns up at the door, homeless and in need… That conversation will often begin with I’m not a Catholic but…
I have found myself in situations that I wouldn’t have imagined possible a year ago… ‘sleeping out’ in the church car park to raise funds for the shelter that we run with the local churches and Gurdwara or sharing ‘my thoughts and reflections’ on the Sunday readings, with two thousand parishioners!
I have stopped wondering Can I…? and I’m learning to trust that if I am here, God will do the rest.
Here is what I shared with my Parish on the theme of The New Evangelisation:
The readings we have just heard, remind us of the importance of remaining faithful to God and to the mission which has been entrusted to us by Jesus, through our baptism…. In the Psalm we are reminded of the need to be faithful: Hope in him, hold firm and take heart. Hope in the Lord!… It is a reminder that, as Christians, we are called, in baptism, to follow Jesus, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life – and nothing is more important than that. So, what is it that we are called to do?
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. (Matthew 28). In another talk that I listened to, earlier this week, I was reminded that the whole of Christ’s mission was to reveal who God is and who we can become. So, we are called to make disciples and, like Jesus, reveal who God is and who we can become – which brings me to the Gospel reading from Luke (9:28-36).
Jesus takes three of his most trusted companions and goes away to pray, to spend time with his Father in heaven. During this experience of being with God, he is transformed, transfigured. His divine nature is revealed. The fact that he is the Son of God is made known, even if it is not fully understood by the disciples… The disciples failed to understand what they were witnessing. We too, fail, which is why we should profit from this Lenten period in the Church’s year to focus again on God, our loving and merciful Father and redouble our efforts to be the person that he wants us to be.
When I began work here, in September, I discovered many wonderful things about this Parish. It is an amazing Parish with many dedicated ‘missionary’ minded members. I realised that the questions ‘What have I done for Christ?’, ‘What am I doing for Christ?’ had, in part at least, been answered. There are many things which go on in the Parish which reach out, to a huge number of people in our Parish Community and further afield. It makes a real difference in the lives of so many people. I was ‘blown away’ by the generosity of people during the Advent appeal, when so many of you shared what you had with others. I see the work that is done, on a daily basis, to ensure that those who come to the shelter have a clean bed, food to eat and clothes to wear. So many good, generous things happen in this Parish, but the temptation for all of us, is to think it is enough. We avoid the question ‘What more can I do for Christ?’ Four years ago, now, I had a very full-time job in central London. Apart from the job, which was demanding, I also spent up to three hours a day travelling to and from work. I told myself that even if I wanted to, there wasn’t time in my life to do more in the Parish – but then, I received a text message from Father – and here I am!
Peter says to Jesus, Master, it is wonderful for us to be here; so, let us make three tents, … What he wants to do is a good thing. He recognises that something important is happening/has happened. But God wants more. He wants more from the disciples, he wants more from us. It isn’t enough for us to look at what is happening in our Parish, know that it is good and think that there is no more to be done. How will God be revealed to each person in my life if I do nothing more? What the disciples are glimpsing is the divine nature of Jesus. They are thrown into darkness and confusion, but God says to them, ‘This is my Son, the Chosen One. Listen to him.’ If we want to be closer to God, if God is important in our lives, we must listen to his Son, Jesus, who, having lived as one of us, shows us how to truly become children of God.
This is God’s invitation to each one of us. He is constantly inviting us into a deeper, more personal relationship. He wants to create a covenant with each of us, with every single human being, as he did with Abraham.
If we look at the banner in the centre, can we allow Jesus to gaze lovingly upon us? Can we return that gaze? What is your response, as you realise that Jesus loves you unconditionally? What more are you willing to do for Jesus, in response to that love? Why has God chosen YOU? What is the FRUIT that he wants you to bear? or, to put it another way, what is the purpose that he has in mind for YOU? Are you willing to put aside some time, during this Lent, to focus, again, on Jesus, to make your ‘home’ in him, as he makes his in you?
We, like the disciples, might be very surprised at how much God can achieve through us, if we but cooperate with him. If each person here were to do ‘one more thing’ for Jesus, in response to his love for us, how many more people in the world would become aware of ‘who God is and who we can become?’ Then we really would become the missionary disciples that Jesus commissioned at the end of Matthew’s Gospel. Then we really would proclaim the Good News that God loves us. Then we really would be evangelisers in the truest sense of the word. It is both a challenge and an invitation. How will you respond?