The Messiah Is Among you.
In one way it may seem the ideal if our Journey in Faith groups were to continue to meet over the Christmas season. It would be so good to share experiences of this and other Christmases in the light of the rich liturgies we will celebrate. As a catechist part of me wants to explore the richness of Word and prayer and living traditions. However, in the absence of dismissal catechesis at present, we have already bade farewell until January. This is ‘right and proper’. Family and other commitments also need to be honoured. I suspect it may be another reminder for us that the Spirit of God was at work calling our inquirers, catechumens and candidates to Christ in their familiar places, long before we met them.
Hopefully the next two weeks will also be a time when parishioners, with varying degrees of awareness, will have particular scope for their essential role:
“…the people of God should understand and show by their concern that initiation of adults is the responsibility of all the baptised… Hence, the entire community must help the candidates and the catechumens throughout the process of initiation… They should therefore show themselves ready to give the candidates welcome into their homes, into personal conversations, and into community gatherings…” RCIA n9
I am reminded of the story of the holy Rabbi living in the woods near a monastery that was declining in fervour and numbers. When the Abbot consulted him about his concerns the Rabbi told him that he had, indeed a message for him that he could repeat only once: the Messiah was living in his community. Returning to the abbey the Abbot told his brothers what the Rabbi had said, with the feeling that he had not received anything very helpful. It could just be true, but who could it be?! Gradually attitudes to each other changed – just in case this one or that one was the Messiah in disguise! This led to changes in the way they lived and prayed and soon others were attracted by their way of living and came to pray with them and some came to join them. Almost imperceptibly they’d found and shared a new way of living.
In responding to the Advent messages and all the preparations for celebrating Christmas (and the ancient ‘rites’ of the midwinter solstice too!) the parish community lives its response to the message that the Messiah is among us. In simple, unpretentious ways God’s presence will be witnessed again in this season.
Attracting people who wish to know more about being a Catholic Christian happens unseen, unknown to us. It is different for everyone but in our stepping back to appreciate this time of celebrating Incarnation we can consciously trust that it is the Spirit of God that works among us: individuals and parish.
By encouraging everyone to pray for each other, especially inquirers and candidates perhaps our community awareness of Christ being born in and among us will be heightened and grow the more.