Sarah-Leah Pimentel, South Africa •
Every month, Pope Francis shares his prayer intentions via The Pope Video initiative.
The Holy Father’s intention for July is for people who are “distant from the Christian faith.” Pope Francis starts by urging us to “never forget that our joy is Jesus Christ.” In his wisdom and a lifetime of ministry, Francis recognises that “when a Christian becomes sad…he has distanced himself from Jesus.”
It is precisely at this point, that each one of us, the community of believers is called act. We are called “not to leave him alone” but to “offer him Christian hope” by sharing our joy and freedom.
In July we’re asked to pray for our brothers and sisters “who have strayed from the faith” and that through “our prayer and witness to the Gospel, may rediscover the beauty of the Christian life.”
A prayer for each one of us
Let us be clear. This is not the prayer of the “good son” who stayed home for the “prodigal” sons and daughters squandered their inheritance. It is a prayer for each one of us.
At some point on our Christian journey, we have strayed from the heart of what it means to be a follower of Christ. We have lost our joy, we have lost our hope, we have lost an appreciation for the “beauty of the Christian life.”
The only reason that you and I are still faithful to Christ and his Church is because there were people in our path who did not leave us alone. Even when we strayed, there were true witnesses to the Gospel who gave us space to express our doubts, freedom to choose again for God, and relationships through which to rediscover joy and hope.
In my case, there was a church belonging to the Jesuits that was open during the day. Confused by my studies in philosophy which told me there was no God, I went into that church think, to read, to be angry at God, to wait for him to break the great silence that had become a wall in my relationship with him.
There were people at the shrine who made sure I didn’t stay away too long and challenged me to continue with my Schoenstatt activities at the shrine even when I felt God was no longer there. In time, and with the prayers of many, my heart returned home.
If there are people who distanced themselves from a relationship with God and have remained distant, I strongly believe that is because they did not find the space and friendship that I found. Perhaps they encountered judgement, fear, disappointment, fanaticism or a lack of love. They didn’t walk away from God. They walked away from people who didn’t display any of the qualities of Christ.
Some of the people who have been part of my faith journey, as well as my Young Women`s League group (header photo).
The face of Christ for you
So this month, let us pray for those who have left the church that they will meet witnesses of the Gospel who will share their joy, mercy and hope. We pray also in thanksgiving for those who led us back when we were hurting and doubting. And we pray for ourselves, that we may be open doors of mercy for those who are doubting and hurting.
We take the words of Sr. Helen Prejean who works with prisoners in the United States: Lord, let me be the face of Christ for others.