Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger
Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger

Most of us, I suspect, have little idea of the good we do and can do — if that is really what we want to do. Love is always a willed act. To love is to do good, intentionally, to ourselves and to others.

Most of the news we read and watch these days can be rather depressing. We seem to hear only about the terrible failures of human beings, the horrible schemes and the murders and the scandals. A big tree crashing down makes much more noise — if you are near it — than an entire forest growing silently over miles and acres. Life is transmitted in the most intimate moments, not publicly, in the blare of spotlights. The seed, planted in good soil, is unseen, like words whispered in prayer, with the faith that, as Jesus says, can move mountains.

Scripture reveals many examples of quiet, humble movements that have changed lives. The woman plagued by hemorrhages who just touched the hem of Christ’s cloak (Mk 5:24-34), the Roman centurion who felt unworthy to ask Jesus to even come under his roof, whose servant was healed by humble prayer (Mt 8:8). One Hail Mary could change the world!

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 are spent on how to attract people into a 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 stethoscope or a seismometer to detect the fault lines in the human heart that can erupt at any time into an angry outburst — like road rage, or other varietals that emerge in the summer months, like “heat rage.” Anyone who is out and about knows how short fuses seem to be when someone does or does not don a mask at the right time in the right place and how easily it is to cause irritation to certain sensibilities by saying one wrong word. 

The amounts of antacids consumed to alleviate the effects of anxiety — or overindulgence in food and drink — is epic. We have learned that over 50 percent of the American public is now on some kind of “drug therapy” to relieve various forms of physical or mental pain. Need one say more? People are hurting and hungry for something that they are not getting just from getting around, no matter how much medication they are taking, how many things we are buying or how many relationships one may be looking for through which to find affirmation and a sense of self-worth. The soul hunger is palpable, loud and clear. Fortunately, so is the soul food, and each of us who are believers have a way to provide it for ourselves and others, just as Jesus did when he says, “come and see” (cf. Jn 1:39-41).

Recall how Our Lord often seemed to tease his disciples when they ran out of food or found themselves at a loss to accommodate the crowds that followed Jesus during his public ministry. “Give them something yourselves” he often said (cf. Mk 6:37), as if to let them know that the miracles of multiplication he was about to perform also required their participation, in the gathering and the distribution of loaves and fishes, and the spiritual riches that would flow from the awareness of the power of God’s grace-filled love.

As Jesus himself lamented, “the harvest is rich, but the laborers are few” (Mt 9:37). What is the harvest? The number of souls ripe for cultivation. Who are the laborers? Well, they are you and me. So often, I think, we find the problems of the world so overwhelming that we think there is nothing we can do about them. 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.

What this means is 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, daily 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 really personal connection that Jesus seeks with each and 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” (or 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 it 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, as they say in the twelve-step programs, “let go and let God.”