Sharing My Faith
Since 2014, St. Joseph's Parish in Ballymun, Ireland, started to look at ways to respond to the needs of young people in the parish. Parents asked if there was a program that could help them nourish the spiritual aspect of the lives of their teenage sons and daughters. It was through that inquiry that Lifeteen came to be.
Lifeteen is a youth program that started in the United States. It is a program that offers opportunities for young people to come together for fun and play and to be among their peers and friends to pray and talk and share about their faith.
One thing I like about this program is that it is not just good for the teens but also good for adults. It offers opportunity for the core team to practice teamwork and commitment aside from learning more about the faith. In May this year we had a Life Night Series on the controversial Jesus called Censored. It was a four-part series that focuses on various images of Jesus. Here I want to share the learning from this series.
Our culture has a particular perception of Jesus. Some see Jesus as judgmental and condemning. Others see Jesus as all-loving and permissive. Still others see Jesus as a character from a fairy tale and others simply as a historical figure, but not God. But this is the real Jesus.
Beggar – Jesus identifies with the poor, marginalized and outcast because He was one of them. He was born into the humility of a manger and then exiled. Throughout His ministry He identified with sinners, outcasts and the poor.
Challenge: Jesus calls us to embrace poverty; that as we serve the poor and the outsider we are directly serving Him. As missionaries can you follow Jesus if it meant giving up everything you possess?
Exorcist – Jesus main ministry consisted of teachings, healings and exorcisms. Faith is necessary for healing. Jesus is the divine physician. He comes to heal and deliver us. Yet we often do not call out to Him in prayers of deliverance and healing.
Challenge: We must acknowledge that we live in a spiritual and physical realm and that the name of Jesus Christ has power over those realities.
Criminal – Jesus was condemned to die as a criminal. He was executed as an enemy of Rome and handed over by His own people. If we follow Him, we will also encounter persecution and hatred. This should not discourage us; when we are persecuted for our faith, we are really living it well.
Challenge: Christian persecution exists today in many parts of the world. We must unite with those that face criminal charges, persecution and even death for their faith with our prayer.
King – Jesus is our king and has authority over our lives. We can choose to accept His authority and live in the kingdom of God or reject it. But we cannot over rule it. When we accept Christ's authority, we become truly free. Obedience to Jesus is not slavery; it is where we will find true fulfilment.
Challenge: Jesus will one day come again to judge the living and the dead and to rule in the kingdom of God.
Who Do I Say Jesus Was?
Since early this year the house of the Ando family has been the venue for our prayer gathering. Unlike other prayer groups with their logistics, rituals and regulations e.g. Couples for Christ or the Legion of Mary, this group has a sole purpose and that is to pray together around the scripture.
That particular afternoon the reading was from the Gospel of Luke 9:18-24. Then He said to them, "But WWW.COLUMBAN.ORG August/September 2017 5 who do you say I am?" Present at that prayer gathering were some of the teenagers from our Lifeteen in Ballymun.
One of the teenagers said that he knows the love of Jesus through the love of his parents. For him it becomes easy to feel that Jesus loves him because of the love he experiences from his mother and father. He is grateful for the sacrifices his parents made for him just to give him a good life. His parents are the reflections of God's love for him.
The other teen shared about how she was grateful to have known Jesus more since she was baptized as an adult during the Easter Vigil Mass at St. Joseph. She grew up with little knowledge of the faith until she joined the Lifeteen group. It has been a help to share her faith with the other teens.
My own sharing that afternoon was about my email address: "aonejolas." It is my first email address and the only one for personal emails. Sixteen years later, I still have it. What is the significance of my email address? How is this connected to my sharing about who I say Jesus was?
The first three letters, "a," "n," "e," are my initials: Angelica Nacar Escarsa, while "jolas" is short for Jojo Lastimosa, a famous Pure foods/ Alaska basketball player in the late 1980s to early 1990s. He was like my whole life, my inspiration and all. My teenage life revolved around him. Then comes the realization that "JOLAS" has a more significant meaning. It is not just the abbreviation of the name of a basketball player.
For a long time, I have been using an initials of the most significant person in my life. "JOLAS" is "Jesus Our Life and Savior." There is no better way to describe who I say Jesus was than to say that He is my life and savior.
Angelica Escarsa is a Columban lay missionary.