This blog post corresponds to the mission priority of “Encounter”
An encounter with Christ changes a person’s life. During a recent spiritual exercise, I recalled the moment that I had that encounter: the moment when my whole life changed.
My journey toward encounter was gradual, but I recall the exact moment when when I went from lukewarm to on fire for Him. Before then, I considered myself a “good Catholic”: fulfilling my weekly Mass obligation and even feeling his presence a few times. However, I left Him at church, tucked away in the tabernacle until the next Sunday. After my encounter with Jesus, He became the center of my life. I loved my neighbor more deeply; knew the true meaning of joy even in suffering; and my heart for service grew like the Grinch’s heart on Christmas morning when he could not destroy the joy in Who-ville.
How do we help our parishioners and the community encounter Jesus in such a way that it changes their lives? Our first answer as a church is usually to look for a program that will help them along in their faith. Most of the programs try to catechize the “un-encountered” So, what can we do differently?
Alpha provides a non-threatening environment for non-believers, those of little faith and anyone who has questions about life and God. The Alpha course includes dinner and childcare, which makes the invitation even more appealing. To date, Alpha has reached 29 million people across the world and brought them into a more fulfilling relationship with Christ. Alpha can be a gateway to, or used in conjunction with RCIA.
Another wonderful opportunity to communicate with the unengaged in your parish is the ChristLife Series. This is a program developed by a Catholic apostolate located in our own Archdiocese, which provides a shallow-end entry into having an initial or renewed personal encounter with the Lord. With three different courses, the series begins with the Discovering Christ program and then moves on to Following Christ. Finally, it wraps up with Sharing Christ, which is about sending us forth as missionary disciples. Like Alpha, each week begins with a meal. Childcare can be incorporated as well.
People encounter Christ through relationships. Both Alpha and ChristLife facilitate these relationships by bringing people together to form friendships and grow in faith. Inviting the Holy Spirit to fill the hearts of those who are courageous to seek for more will lead to a flourishing Catholic community.
What is your parish offering to promote Encounter?