Hearts and Voices
This is the one about whom it is written: Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you;
he will prepare your way before you. (Matthew 11:10)
In those days John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea [and] saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” It was of him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said: “A voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.’” (Matthew 3:3)
In a long-ago sermon St. Augustine teaches, "I use my voice to share with your heart the word that is already in mine. Now the word is in your heart, yet still also in mine." When John the Baptist proclaims, "Prepare the way of the Lord," Augustine hears, "I speak out to lead him into your heart, but he does not chose to come unless you prepare the way for him by praying well and thinking humbly of yourself."
Only by grace do we know him who is God with us. Our faith is nurtured and informed in prayer, scripture, tradition, the sacraments, and active involvement within our Church community. The spiritual life is an ever-evolving awareness of the One who is everywhere and every when. His grace gives rise to and sustains our love and deep longing for union with him who incredibly seeks us first.
How do we share this with others who may have no similar history, no experience of the Father's extravagant affections, one unaware of spiritual need, or searching elsewhere for its fulfillment? Decades ago a priest friend of mine was the Catholic chaplain at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. He spoke of the unequivocal hunger for God that he felt among the bright and talented students he served. Many of them did not know what was missing in their lives, but their art often reflected their loneliness and search for meaning. Do the inevitable and incessant distractions in life ever truly quiet the longing?
A lived relationship with Jesus can absolutely interest and draw others. What sort of witness am I? Am I among those who cry out on his behalf? Can I speak comfortably about him? Do I accept his challenge to live a life of discipleship, allowing him to use me? Do I consistently choose to be yes? Am I still growing?
We share life in Christ by making a sincere effort to live as he did. Jesus is the only perfect witness to his own teaching. We are not, but the message of the One we bear within is perfect.
Each of us must make visible the Christ who lives in us. To know and to love Jesus is to embrace his way, absorb his life, and allow ourselves to be transformed. Our gifts are the work of the Holy Spirit in us, and meant to be shared. Life in Christ by its very nature cannot be kept private. But if we draw attention only to ourselves, it ends there. Allow your love for Jesus to overwhelm you. Let it spread throughout your being, thoughts and emotions, body and soul. Consciously live in him. Be generous with his love, and with your own.
Nothing is more practical than finding God, than falling in Love in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in Love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything.
It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends, what you read, whom you know,
what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in Love, Stay in Love, and it will decide everything.
(Pedro Arrupe, SJ)
C.S. Lewis suggests that being an authentic Christian is not for the faint of heart. In his allegorical Chronicles of Narnia, Lewis uses Aslan, the great lion, to represent Jesus. Before the children meet Aslan for the first time, Susan asks nervously, "Is he—safe?" The answer: "Safe? Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you."
So we listen, and take the words of our good King to heart: “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (John 20:21) “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature." (Mark 16:15) "Do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given what to say. For it will not be you who speaks but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you." (Matthew 16:19-20)
Evangelization is not primarily what we do, or how much we do, but whom we serve. We seek love for him, not for ourselves. "He must increase; I must decrease," declared John the Baptist. (John 3:30)
In his praise of John, Augustine urges all of us to remember in humility that like the Baptist, we are the voices, but not the Word, and the lamps, but not the Light. Voices pass into silence, lamps fade into darkness, but Christ is the Word and the Light who was in the beginning and who is forever.