Introducing the Study Guide Series
Introduction & Background
Jesus moves to the centre of my praxis
The gospel can form and shape us
In 1996 I wrote a reflection on the first four Beatitudes from a position of close proximity to friends who had experienced serious mental illness. As I immersed myself in the stories of my friends while at the same time engaging with Jesus' teaching, I discovered how the gospels—and all Scripture—enliven the contexts in which we are planted, since Jesus' teaching not only transforms the pilgrims of the gospel pages, but it also forms and shapes us. Engaging with the Beatitudes, I realized that significant walls were within me—not just my friends—and Jesus was inviting both of us to attend to their dismantling.
As I began to introduce these gospel encounters with Jesus into personal reflections on my guiding and companioning, teaching, supervision and formation work, my action-reflection-prayer-praxis was enlivened. By engaging in everyday human experiences, including places of pain, suffering and death, Jesus manifested his life-giving and restorative purpose in the world, gifting us with a wealth of stories, images and metaphors that keep us searching for more of his way.
Gospel encounters moved from the periphery to the centre of my praxis. In guiding and companioning we often look for programs, methods, practice theories or progressive steps. Instead, Jesus invites us, through his self-giving, other-receiving and sacrificial love, and through the solidarity of his presence, to indwell his person and to be transformed, through the work of the Holy Spirit, into his likeness. Though formation in the likeness of Christ is stated as our basic faith priority, it can easily be pushed to the margins of our training and ongoing formation, with contemporary theory and method taking centre stage. It is important to constantly remind ourselves, that in speaking of the deeper life of pilgrims and what it is to be human, “we have not said enough until we speak of God.”
Categorizing guides and companions as problem-solvers, advisors, classifiers of life’s difficulties, or assistants to troubled pilgrims falls short of Jesus' transformative and restorative purposes in the world and sidelines his invitation for our active participation in the renewing of his kingdom on earth. With the burdens, struggles, and searchings that pilgrims bring to our doors we need constant reminders that Jesus is actively present with us through the Spirit as the fulfilment of our human destiny. He invites us to be formed and shaped in his ways and to embody his personal solidarity and relational presence and reflect this to pilgrims.
Come to me . . .
I continue to be struck by how Jesus’ ‘Come to me . . .’ and the three verses which contain his invitation reveal the genius and rich texture of the personal solidarity and relational presence which he, through the gift of his life, opens to pilgrims. If offers a glimpse into the substance of what it means walk on delicate ground with pilgrims in cooperation with the Spirit. In his solidarity and presence burdened, troubled and searching pilgrims are invited into his rest. There is the lightness of his yoke to them. There is the deepening of relational knowing which comes through intimacy with him and with his gentle and humble heart. There is the invitation to find his rest for the soul.
As a Guide and companion I have experienced the invitation, through the Spirit, to participate in Jesus ways of solidarity and presence.
Jesus’ ‘Come to me,’ also provides me with a lens through which I can glimpse his engagements with pilgrims. In my prayer and reflection, following a session with a pilgrim, I am invited to bring one of these gospel accounts into dialogue with these encounters. Further, I am offered a base line for my praxis, for each time I am drawn back to this sacred invitation, the Spirit’s prompting is to embody and reflect more of what is being revealed.
These words of Jesus also raise many questions:
- How does this work out in the relationship we might offer a pilgrim?
- Can we really invite a person who is overwhelmed and in pain to a place of rest?
- What is it to offer a gentle and humble heart for the journey?
- Can we actually journey with people towards a place that offers real and substantial rest for the soul?
- Is Jesus really inviting us as guides and companions to “become” his “invitation” and to extend the flow of the self-giving and other-receiving love and the relational presence of the persons of the Eternal Trinity to the pilgrims with whom we walk?
These are question that we can take into our prayer and reflection on our guiding and companioning praxis. They are questions we can explore in different ways using this website. They are questions to “live into” and to “pray into” rather than to try to address at a more theoretical level. I hope that through providing reflections, stories, visual images, narratives, poems, parables and theological reflections, the invitation to step deeper into the way of Jesus might be encouraged.
Knowing Jesus and knowing ourselves
For us as guides and companions, as for pilgrims, coming to know the fullness of the person of Jesus also means coming to know ourselves. This is unfolding discovery from the inside-out. Jesus is not foreign to us, because through him we were created and given life. Deep within the sanctuary of our soul we know his voice. To draw close to him is to encounter the giving and receiving flow of God’s Spirit, where we are fully loved, fully known, and invited to participate in his life and vocation.
Little-by-little, as his light illuminates our innermost being, Jesus leads us from ordinary, everyday levels of awareness towards inner revelation, calling us to wake up, look, listen and learn. In this book we will refer to this call towards wakefulness as “attentiveness.” Always sensitive to our unique history and capacity for growth, Jesus mirrors back to us how we can be reconciled—brought from fragmentation, disunity and disconnection into unity, wholeness, holiness and communion—as his humble, gentle and wounded heart accompanies our divided and fearful hearts along this transformative life journey.
It has been a privilege for me to engage with many people around these themes. Through conversations, in classrooms, and with formation groups, where we have reflected upon the “companioning of Jesus,” I have emerged with new insights and challenges. Most of all, it has been the pilgrims who have sought me out and offered the gift of their stories and gifted me with glimpses of the redeeming, reconciling and transforming touches of Jesus. I continue to be formed and shaped in the gentle, loving, life-giving way of Jesus.
Guiding and companioning in the way of Jesus has been a constant theme in my more recent writing, including my two books: Reflected Love: Companioning in the Way of Jesus, and Guiding Gideon: Awakening to Life and Faith. I have developed guiding and companioning narratives along with reflections. As noted above, this website contains reflections, stories, visual images, narratives, poems, parables and theological reflections. The theme of guiding and companioning in the way of Jesus might be encouraged will also continue as a conversation through the blog.
 This was published in a small discussion paper entitled, "Dismantling the walls that divide." Christopher Brown, Zadok Paper S78, 1-14, 1996.
 Martin Laird. Into the Silent Land: The Practice of Contemplation. London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 2006, 9.
 Romans 12:2; Eph 4:23.
 Matthew 11:28 – 30.
 Christopher Brown. Reflected Love: Companioning in the Way of Jesus. Eugene OR: Wipf & Stock, 2012.
 John 10:14 & 16.