First I would like to introduce myself to the Archdiocese of Liverpool. My name is Jacob and I am a member of the gap year team at Animate Youth Ministries. As I tell all the young people, I am your token southerner for the year, born and bred in Woking, the Surrey town famous for rock band The Jam as well as the setting of HG Wells' novel The War of the Worlds.
For me, January is always a joyful month in the calendar. Happy memories of Christmas are still fresh in my heart and mind – because being able to return south for the holidays and spend time with family and friends is something I really treasure. January is also exciting because back home I can wear my Woking FC shirt and scarf and cheer on the team in the National League, albeit with a mix of dread and excitement whenever we play local rivals Aldershot Town.
Of course, January is also that time when we think about beginning something new. Many people make New Year's resolutions, ready to inspire that 'new me'. I am similar: as a keen long-distance runner, every January I set different targets which hopefully, by the end of the year, will have made me a better runner, be it in times or technique. Wanting to consolidate your achievements of the past 12 months, or to take things in a different but decidedly beneficial direction, is pretty normal.
Anyone who attended the Embrace Liverpool conference for young people at the Metropolitan Cathedral in late November may also want to carry something of the old into the New Year. Too often we hear how young people have become disillusioned with the Church, so the importance of an event like Embrace is that it emphasises that the faith is well and truly alive.
Anyway, I digress. In this month's Gospel readings I can also perceive some excitement building. First we read about the Magi presenting their gifts to the Holy Family; then a few days later we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord. The following two Sundays we see Jesus' invitation to his disciples to 'come and follow me', first to Andrew and Simon Peter, later to James and John. Then finally, after Jesus heals an unclean man in Capernaum, people start to recognise the power of his message and ministry. All five Gospel readings have a thread of excitement running through them. Maybe it is the movement of the Holy Spirit, but from Jesus' birth to his death and resurrection, we are called continuously to follow Jesus in our own lives.
So as we enter 2018, I ask you to keep the young people of our Archdiocese as well as the Animate team in your prayers. It has been a fantastic experience to live in this community of friends, to have my own faith grow accordingly – and most important of all, to try to spread the message of the Gospel in an exciting and joyful way. Long may it continue!