7/21/2016 9:00:00 AM BISHOP'S COLUMN Just do it Actions to take in tough times
'The bishops of New York State are horrified by [the] attack on police in Baton Rouge, as they were by the attack in Dallas, and as they continue to mourn the recent questionable shooting deaths of African-American men in Baton Rouge and Minnesota. They also condemn the cowardly attack on innocent men, women and children in Nice, France. This cycle of violence must stop, and the bishops urge all to pray fervently for peace and harmony at home and abroad. Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us.' Facebook post by New York State Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the state's bishops
BY BISHOP EDWARD B. SCHARFENBERGER
Most of us, I think, have no idea of the good we can do -- if that is what we want to do.
Most of the news we read and watch these days is pretty depressing. We seem to hear only about the terrible failures of human beings, the horrible schemes and murders and scandals.
A big tree crashing down makes much more noise than an entire forest growing. Yet, life is transmitted in the most intimate moments, not publicly in the glare of spotlights.
Many good people of faith lament what they see as the fall-off of religious observance, especially in the summer months. So much time and planning is spent on how to attract people to the Church -- as if it were a serious question that people need to be somehow seduced, cajoled or prodded into feeding themselves spiritually.
Most people know how to find food fast when they need to. Does McDonald's have to tell people they are hungry? Are our spiritual hungers that much different?
You don't need a seismometer to detect the fault lines in the human heart that can erupt at any time into an angry outburst: road rage, for instance, or this summer's "heat rage." Anyone who is out and about knows how short fuses seem to be and how easily it is to irritate some people.
The amount of antacids consumed to alleviate the effects of anxiety or overindulgence in food and drink is epic. Did you know that more than 50 percent of the American public is now on some kind of drug to relieve various forms of physical or mental pain? Need I say more? People are hurting and hungry for something they are not receiving, no matter how much medication they are taking, how many things they are buying or how many relationships through which they are looking to find affirmation.
The soul hunger is there -- and so is the soul food. We just have to provide it.
As Jesus lamented, "The harvest is rich but the laborers are few." What is the harvest? The number of souls ripe for cultivation. Who are the laborers? You and I.
So often, I think, we find the problems of the world so overwhelming that we think there is nothing we can do about it. They seem so complicated. Jesus, however, did not leave us a very difficult plan for overcoming them. Basically, He commissioned us to treat one another as neighbors, bringing Him and His healing message to everyone we meet, one by one, person to person.
This means the world changes every time we bring Jesus to one more person. What an enormous power we possess!
Of course, to bring Jesus, we have to know Jesus and love Him. This presupposes that we have an active prayer life. Otherwise, we may be able to recite certain "facts" about Jesus and our faith -- the do's and don'ts -- but we will not have the kind of conviction and passion that is so important for making that personal connection that Jesus seeks with every one of us.
Daily prayer (ideally, the better part of an hour) allows us the time to be in the presence of the Lord so that He can enter our hearts. As we do this, our desire will increase to want to tell others about Him. We will find ourselves noticing the graces that God is sending us every day.
The "Good News" (the Gospel), we begin to discover, is the person of Jesus Himself: what He says and does in our lives here and now. It is not only about our future happiness in heaven, but the peace and joy that begin even now.
This is what everyone is looking for, and it -- He -- is an attractive force that needs nothing more than our personal witness to in order to be effective.
In other words, the way to spread the Gospel is to just do it! We can call this by its fancier name, "evangelization," but it is more important that we know that the power to lead others to salvation from all that is ailing them is as close as we are to the person who happens to be next to us at any given moment.
It is that simple. It has always been that simple. God will work the miracles. All we have to do is let Him.