– John 20:19
Imagine yourself as a follower of Jesus before His crucifixion. Imagine the excitement of coming to know the Messiah intimately and waking up each morning in his company, anticipating the day and wondering what profound teaching or miraculous sign awaits.
Now imagine that this man, whom you loved and believed to be the savior of your people, ripped from your midst and publicly tried, punished, tortured, humiliated, and put to death like a common criminal. Imagine the fear: if the Roman authorities and Jewish religious leaders could do this to such a man as Jesus, what could they do to me, a poor sinner?
The disciples chose, as many of us would, to keep a low profile—to remain out of sight behind locked doors. But they remained together. That’s curious. Certainly a group of Galileans and the executed man’s mother all gathered together in one place did not escape the notice of their neighbors. Wouldn’t it have been sensible to disperse until the scandal blows over – to each return home, if only for a little while?
We are not meant to go it alone. We follow Christ to whatever end awaits us in communion with all believers, and we are meant to grow in faith, hope, and love; to face joy and suffering; to live and die; together as members of the Body of Christ here on earth. Only with the support of like-minded Christians can we find the courage and perseverance to pour out our blood, sweat, and tears for those who do not yet know God or His Church. This is yet another reason why our approach to faith formation and the sacraments here at St. Michael is family- and community-based.
In her book Forming Intentional Disciples, Sherry Weddell of the Catherine of Siena Institute identifies five “thresholds” that people pass through on their way to full-fledged Christian discipleship. The first of these thresholds is trust. Put simply, the first step toward conversion is finding a disciple with whom you can relate: a “known Catholic” whom you can talk to, relate to, or admire – or even just a Catholic who seems normal. Believe it or not, you begin to evangelize just by being Catholic and available to the people around you!
And while many people have said that once you leave the church, you’re in mission territory, I would argue that we’re in mission territory even in the pews! So many of your friends, neighbors, and family members – including me – fall short of intentional discipleship and need help. To that end, LIFT this year will include ice-breaker activities and some less-structured small-group time in order to help parish families get to know each other better.
This social time is just as important as the more structured classroom time, because these are the interactions that shape how we follow Christ, individually and as a community. As we get to know each other, we begin to ask about each other’s families, share each other’s concerns, and pray for each other’s needs—and Christ Himself passes through our midst, filling us with grace and the Holy Spirit, and sharing with us His peace.
Blogger’s Note: This article appears in the Sunday, Sept. 27, parish bulletin.