There are many reasons people are attracted to the Church. Some have been to a liturgy or other Catholic event and found something there that has drawn them. Others like the solidity of Catholic teaching. Still others have been influenced by people they have met – who have inspired them to find out what may have made the difference to the way they lived their lives.
Whatever the reason – or reasons – that first attracted someone, part of the work of a journey in faith is to help people to develop a relationship with Jesus. This is something that Pope Francis is encouraging – a renewed encounter with the Lord. He insists that no-one should feel excluded – that this invitation is for everyone.
One of the Gospels coming up this month includes the lovely statement that “God so loved the world that he sent his only Son into it to save it”. Another teaching of Jesus we will hear is that he did not come into the world to condemn but to save. These are astounding thoughts and we can feel unworthy (which we are!) or overwhelmed. Some of those preparing to be received into the Church may also still feel that it is more about learning the rules than developing that crucial relationship with Jesus. And yet, our experience is that, without that at the heart of their growing faith, many will fall away.
Here are some thoughts that might help people to take these readings more deeply into their spiritual journey.
· Suggest a prayer time in which people use the phrase “God so loved the world that he sent his only Son into the world to save it”. You could suggest that they substitute “world” with “me”. Invite them to repeat this frequently over the next few weeks – and to come to the Holy Week liturgies holding this thought in their mind and heart.
- · Talk a little about Jesus’ insistence on coming to the world to save not to judge. If this has not already happened, this could be a time to prepare them for a confession – emphasising that the priest “in persona Christi” is there to act as Jesus would – to help them to face up to the things they (and others) might condemn themselves for and to see that Jesus’ mission is to help them to find forgiveness and to move on.
- · Think about exploring some of the symbols that will be used during the Triduum – sensitising people to their meaning so that, during the days themselves, they can more deeply appreciate them.