(still a week behind – I might not be the fastest car on the track, but I cross the finish line eventually)
What does evangelization look like? How do we lead someone from complete unbelief to fervent discipleship? Sherry Weddell outlines five “thresholds” in the spiritual journey towards mature faith:
- Initial Trust
- Spiritual Curiosity
- Spiritual Openness
- Spiritual Seeking
- Intentional Discipleship
She emphasizes that this is not a mechanical process:
There is no one-size-fits-all way of negotiating the journey to discipleship. People will move through at different paces . . . or ping-pong back and forth between different thresholds . . . .
The thing to remember is that we are not in control of the process. Some people will not respond to our best efforts . . . . Others may dazzle us by choosing to cooperate with grace . . . . We are dealing with the mystery of a relationship that God himself is initiating in the human heart.
In chapter five we explore the first threshold, “Initial Trust”. This is not the same as an active, personal faith. It is a positive association with the Church that makes it possible to move closer to God. It could be a Catholic friend, a good experience with a Catholic school or hospital, or maybe even a positive image of the faith portrayed in a movie or book:
The first task of evangelization is to find out if a bridge of trust already exists.
. . . Many don’t trust God or the Church, by they do trust a Christian in their life. Maybe they trust you. You may be the bridge that will one day lead them to a life-changing encounter with Christ.
In your own faith:
- How was the bridge of trust built for you?
- Who are the people who helped you to come as far as you have in your personal journey?
- Have you ever been that link of trust for another person?
In your parish:
- What are actions you can take at your parish to make your congregation a place of trust?
- Are there barriers in the public imagination – such as a concern about scandals or financial misdeeds – that require increased transparency in order to foster genuine trust?
How was the bridge of trust built for you?
I have to think my Catholic upbringing built the bridge of trust. I don’t believe I ever truly crossed it though, until later in life. It was a combination of a good friend and an epiphany – and the intercession of a particular saint, of that I am convinced – that made me realize that a bridge spanning death over to life is pointless unless it’s crossed.
And I’m eternally grateful I crossed over into the land of the living. It wasn’t as difficult as I had thought it would be from an intellectual standpoint (though it did – and still does – cause difficulties and problems from a personal relationship standpoint with some people in my life, but that’s a different issue). I had no problem in trusting the Church with regards to Her teachings. Her teachings aren’t true because the Church teaches them – the Church teaches what She does because they are true. That was a distinction I quickly understood. Thus, I realized I had great freedom in discovering more deeply the reasons why the Church teaches what She does, because I didn’t struggle with the question of if Her teachings were true. This was, and continues to be, grace.
Who are the people who helped you to come as far as you have in your personal journey?
Really too numerous to mention – and I know that God will continually send people into my life who will help me along the way as needed.
Have you ever been that link of trust for another person?
Yes – and it’s never the obvious person. It’s a privilege and a great responsibility – the key, I think, is trusting in the Holy Spirit to do the guiding and leading. There have been times when I’ve asked the Holy Spirit to put the words in my mouth, and he merely suggested that I shut up. Things have gone better when I followed that advice.