By Michael Marchal, JBL:NAAC Board Member
You together are the body of Christ, but each of you is a different part… 1 Cor. 12:27
Being a “lone ranger” telling the world about Jesus is not the picture that emerges from the New Testament of what it meant to be and to live as a Christian. The Christian world in Jerusalem is portrayed as a tightly knit community, not only gathering together for regular prayer and service, but also holding all things in common. Even St. Paul, the most far-ranging of the apostles, reveals in his letters his deep need for constant connection with the communities that he founded if he was to carry out his mission.
This sense of community challenges us to examine our relationship with potential new members of our community. The people most intimately involved with the catechumenate may be the clergy and the people involved in Christian education, but the potential new members are not preparing to become clergy or teachers; they are exploring how to become what we all are—members of the body of Christ.
What can each of us who are already members do for these people on their journey of transformation?
First, we need to pray for them… really pray! Each of us has experienced times of doubt and temptation and resistance to the call of the Spirit. So, we know what gifts of healing and encouragement to ask for these seekers. We might even feel drawn to “adopt” one of them as someone for whom we will especially pray.
The same attitude of prayer is crucial during the rites of the catechumenate that occur in Sunday worship. The service may be a little longer, but how else will these seekers experience the presence of Christ in the community?
Second, we need to welcome them in an ongoing way. During coffee hour, we need to introduce ourselves. We need to do that again and again until they know our name and we know theirs. We need to ask them how things are going in their journey and show them that our genuine concern lies behind that question. If we are involved in a ministry, we can invite them to join. This kind of involvement is especially important for outreach ministries. Again, how will they know that Christians like us find Christ really present in the poor, the homeless, and the exploited unless we involve them in real service?
Third, we need to bear witness to them about the faith that is in us, if we are given the occasion. Whether in a casual conversation or in a more formal presentation, we need to share with them our own journey with Jesus. And we need to do so boldly, again claiming the promise that the Spirit will give us the right words to say.
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