This summer, I spent 5 weeks ministering to the sick at the charity hospital in Houma. About three weeks in, I had made my rounds and something didn’t feel right. So I went to the little make-shift chapel there in the hospital, sat down and said, “Lord, what am I doing here? I can’t help these people. They’re here; they’re sick; I can’t heal them. Some what to be prayed with; others don’t. Some open up and share about there problems but, with a lot of them, I’m just saying ‘hey’ and having surface level conversation. Lord, what am I doing here?”
As I sat there, the Lord put on my heart words attributed to St. Theresa of Avila: “Christ has no hands, no feet on earth but yours.” And Jesus said to me very clearly in my heart. “Brice, be my face…be my face.”
That experience with the Lord gave focus to my remaining time in hospital ministry. I wasn’t there to fix a problem; I wasn’t there to have deep conversations–though sometimes they happened; I was there to be a bridge for Jesus. The Program for Priestly Formation says that the human personality of the priest is to be formed in such a way that he is a bridge and not an obstacle to encountering God. For every Christian–not just men in the seminary–he/she is supposed to be a bridge and not an obstacle to help others encounter God.
So the first “threshold” of intentional discipleship is trust. At least for contemporary man and woman in the west, there is a great skepticism, a great distrust–distrust of authority, distrust of other people, distrust even of God. No one can really live as a Christian without trusting Jesus, so how do we break down the barriers of distrust? Where do we start in evangelization? Where do we start in helping others to be real Christians, deeply in love with Jesus? We start at relationships; we start with building trust; we just love the people we see.
In the hospital, when I asked Jesus where to start, He said, “Be my face.” You see, it’s all about love. Do I actually love the person in front of me? Mary goes in haste to visit Elizabeth because she loves her (cf. Lk 1:39).
Where does that love come from? Mary, ponders God’s word and cherishes it in her heart (Lk 2:19, 51). Love comes from God and He wants to communicate his love through me to the whole world. WOW!!! Take a moment to ponder that…your very own mission…from God Himself…to receive and spread God’s love.
This, y’all, is the meaning of life. Do I receive God’s love? Do I share that love with every person I encounter? If I love every person I encounter, if my heart is open to receiving the other person then sometimes, when the doors open to deeper relationship, that person’s going to begin to trust me. And if I’m living life as a radical Christian, as a real disciple, if I’m becoming holier and holier every day–by God’s grace–with fidelity to prayer and the Sacraments…if I’m pondering God’s word in my heart…then I can love, and that bridge is built.
Guys, evangelization is not about common interests, ideologies, or idiosyncrasies, but about fidelity to Jesus. And by our fidelity, looking into the eyes of the poor man on the side of the road, or the teenage girl who’s emotionally distraught, or the lonely old person in the nursing home…if I can look into his eyes, if I can look into her eyes and see the face of Jesus…if I can foster holy relationships…then I’m at the beginning of evangelization.
Evangelization is not first about teaching. St. Thomas Aquinas said, “That which is received is received in the mode of the receiver.” In other words, “You can’t give somebody what they’re not ready to receive.” It just won’t do any good. But as we love people, their hearts are opened. As we are first loved by God and by other people our hearts are opened. And that’s all…that’s the first threshold: We put away our ideologies, we put away what’s from us, and we love people. And when we have built trust, when it’s time to go deeper, then we present them with what Jesus has given us, with what Jesus provides for us through His Church. But that’s for the next post.
So foster trust by love. There, you and I are at the beginning of evangelization.