There were two things that struck me from this conversation, the first is a fairly annoying observation about myself and my credibility as an authentic witness of Jesus Christ. I realised after leaving the barbers that I'd managed to have an entire conversation about 'what I do' without once mentioning the name of Jesus. This worried me as I walked away because Pope Paul VI tells us in Evangelii Nuntiandi that 'there is no true evangelization if the name...of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God are not proclaimed.' I came to this realisation that perhaps I'm very secure and comfortable in what I do, that Mission work is a safe place for me to talk about and share Jesus with others. But that I don't really take Jesus to the world anywhere else apart from that. That's not good enough for me. I can go through my life doing Mission, accepting all the praise and admiration from perfectly well meaning people without sharing the love of Jesus in a real, authentic way. God calls me to so much more than this, we're called 'to present your body as a living sacrifice' and not 'to be conformed to this world.' (Rom 12).
While the Mission work that we do great, God calls each one of us to proclaim the Gospel to all people, and not just the people that might I happen to meet on Mission. We are called, and I find this a personal challenge, to a 'lifestyle of mission' in order to be more authentic and effective witnesses to the Gospel, whether that's in the barbers, pubs, shops or wherever we might find ourselves in daily life. So that is my prayer this Advent and Christmas season. That as St Paul tells us, I/we might be transformed by the renewing of our minds, so that we may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Having said all that, there was another thing that struck me from my conversation with the barber. At one point in he asked me if I'd ever thought about doing this sort of work abroad, and that would that be fun. I agreed that it would be and that I have considered it. However, my reply was something to the tune of 'Well the thing is, I have a real passion for this country and to see the dwindling of faith in God in this country changed.' To which he asked if I saw it changing any time soon; and well, I have hope. What I have seen in the past few months of mission is a real thirst in young people to know Jesus. Not in some abstract way, but to really know Jesus, and the love and peace that he brings to our lives. Ultimately, many young people are searching for meaning and purpose and in Jesus we find the real answer. In the past few months I've seen many young people giving their lives to Jesus in new ways, many for the first time, others being strengthened in their faith and still more finding they have a faith but didn't even realise it! I am strongly of the belief that the situation in our country can and will change through the power and love of God and my experience of the past few months is just one of the reasons for this hope.
So I pray during this Christmas time that we may all be renewed in our authenticity as witnesses for Christ and also that we will see the change in this country in our lifetime. But also that we will keep hope for ourselves and each of the individuals we meet, and their own particular journey with God. Let's tell everyone about the love of Jesus!
I hope this gives you an insight into my past few months, my thoughts and life in general.