Through Lent, there are many opportunities to help others to encounter Jesus Christ as he leads us to the mercy of our heavenly Father, which is at the heart of Evangelisation. Ash Wednesday of course, that sign of our humility, when the ashes on our forehead remind us not only that without God we are nothing but dust, but that it is through his Son, Jesus Christ, we gain eternal life with God, something we can share with the curious as we walk out onto the street. The Stations of the Cross, that local pilgrimage which takes us to that eternal pilgrimage of Jesus as he staggers towards Calvary, is an opportunity to invite others to join us on that journey, inviting them, and especially our children, to place our sorrows with the sorrows of Mary as with her we accompany Christ in his Passion. Such a moving encounter that reveals Christ’s love for us, which in turn brings a resounding sense of hope – needed by so many in our world, as we journey beyond that final station at the tomb, to the Resurrection and Easter. Through Lent we take more time to pray, to encounter Christ anew. We make more of an effort to fast, joining Christ in an ever so modest way, in his trials. We offer more of we have to the poor, sharing God’s goodness that he offers to us, following the example of Christ. Maybe much of what happens is hidden from others, but as we deepen our encounters with Christ through Lent, we can be sure that, whether we are aware or not, others will see, and through us will encounter Jesus.
Some of our Lenten activities can be very visible, and deliberately so. The six-week Faith-Sharing discussion programme ‘Rejoice and Be Glad’, produced by the Agency for Evangelisation, draws us into the mission of Jesus, which through our baptism, we are called to carry on so that others can encounter Jesus and, as Pope Francis tells us, be filled with the joy of the gospel to be ‘set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness’.
In Holy Week, many parishes will join other churches, in a spirit of ecumenism, to hold a procession of the Cross along the ‘high street’. This witness to the Crucifixion is a sign of Christian unity as well as an opportunity for evangelisation, perhaps encouraging some in a fresh interest in their faith, and for others, an invitation to them to find out more. During Lent, through a range of simple actions, we reach out with a sign of hope, leading others through his passion to a renewed and a new encounter with the Risen Lord.
Deacon Adrian Cullen