This is the question that Jesus puts to his disciples, as we hear in the Gospel for Home Mission Sunday which this year is on 16th September. Really it is a question about faith. For those who have not been brought up in the Catholic Faith, or have not actively grown in their faith, there can be hesitation in the answer, just like we hear from the disciples.
It is perhaps a hesitation that we might experience at times when we are confronted by the pressures of our society to conform to what is ‘the norm’. However, as we daily practice our faith through word and action, we need not feel that we are alone in standing up to those pressures. As highlighted in a recent report titled Contemporary Catholicism in England and Wales by Stephen Bullivant at St Mary’s University Twickenham, around 8.3% of the population of England and Wales identify themselves a Catholic. Yet the same report also notes that of estimated 6.2 million adults who were brought up as Catholics, only 55.8%, that is 3.8 million, still identify themselves as Catholics.
Thus, in proclaiming the Good News, the work of evangelisation, we find that it is those who are closest to us, indeed family members and friends who have previously known Jesus, who are the ones to invite to find about who Jesus really is and the love that he offers - to come to meet Jesus as if for the first time.
It is through asking questions and talking about faith that we can lead others to God. A recent survey, titled ‘Talking Jesus’ undertaken by an alliance of Christian churches, found that it is often through conversation with Christians that people come to be Christians themselves. Indeed such conversations can help us to explore our own faith, and renew our confidence in sharing it with others. The survey also pointed to the strong influence of the family on people, young as well as older generations, in supporting them in their faith. This same message was proclaimed loudly to the world through The World Meeting of Families in Dublin. Supporting families to explore and grow in their faith is at the heart of the evangelising work of parishes, bringing forward new generations of missionary disciples.
To help parishes to explore the question of ‘Who do you say I am?’ and about ‘Talking Jesus’, the Home Mission Office of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference for England and Wales, has made available a number of resources which are available through their website: www.homemission.or.uk
Home Mission Sunday is an opportunity to consider what makes those close to us hesitant about their Catholic Faith; and to discover what can make them strong and grow, so that we and they can stand alongside Peter and say with confidence, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God’.
Deacon Adrian Cullen - Evangelisation Coordinator