February is a cold and dark month, but already the mornings are starting to be that little bit brighter as the season starts to change. It’s as if the sun is on a mission to bring back light and warmth to the world which has been in darkness long enough.
We too are on a mission: to bring the light of Jesus Christ into the world. Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium – the Joy of the Gospel, says that it is the challenge for every Christian to be involved in evangelisation – bringing the Good News to all. He points to those first disciples of Jesus who proclaimed, ‘we have found the Messiah’. Likewise, when we have truly experienced the saving love of Jesus, we will want to share that love with others.
However, taking on the challenge of evangelisation may not just happen overnight. For many there is first a journey of faith to be travelled whereby people become missionary disciples. In her book Intentional Discipleship, Sherry Weddell describes how for the individual this journey starts with trust in those who are already disciples, which can lead to a curiosity about Jesus and openness to the possibility of spiritual change. A threshold is then reached whereby a person moves to actively seek Jesus Christ. It is through seeking Jesus and exploring his Church that a person comes to point when they make a choice to commit themselves to Christ, and become an intentional or missionary disciple.
The process to bring about intentional disciples is becoming widely recognised. Some Westminster parishes are already using Sherry Weddell’s ideas in their local Proclaim work, and they will be a key support in the development of evangelisation teams across the Diocese, as we continue with Proclaim through 2017.
At the start of February is the Feast of Presentation of the Lord, when we recall how Jesus is brought to the temple to be greeted by Simeon. Simeon, along with the whole Jewish people, has been waiting, in a world darkened by sin, for the Messiah. As Jesus is presented, Simeon recalls a promise made to him by God and thanks God: Lord, let your servant go in peace, for as you promised, I have now seen the salvation of the world, a light for all peoples.
The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord is also known as Candlemas, when candles for use in the Church are blessed as signs of ‘Christ the light’. We ask God to sanctify the candles, and to pour into our hearts the brilliance of perpetual light, so that we will be eager to carry forward the light of Christ so that we and others may be brought, to the light that never fails.
As each new day brings its own challenges in proclaiming the Good News, we can turn to Mary, Mother of Jesus, who in presenting Jesus to the world faced many challenges, to ask for her intercession. Pope Francis describes Mary as the Mother of Evangelisation. It is through evangelisation that we bring the new light of Jesus, who says to all, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
Deacon Adrian Cullen