By Father Richard S. Jones
Chaplain, UPMC Mercy Hospital
A missionary once asked the great Indian human rights leader Mahatma Gandhi, “How can Christianity make a stronger impact on your country?”
Gandhi, a Hindu who had been considerably influenced by Jesus’ teachings, gave three simple insights:
1.) Christians need to live more like Jesus;
2.) Christians must present the message of Jesus without adulteration, or cultural baggage;
3.) Christians should emphasize love, the core message of the faith.
These insights from a non-Christian should lead us to examine how we are living the Gospel. Do you live like Jesus in your actions, your attitudes, your priorities and your motivations? Do you present the message of Jesus in its purest form? Do you emphasize love in everything that you say, think, and do?
Moses urged the people to be faithful to God’s law, not as a burden to be endured, but a blessing that that would lead to life and wisdom. God summoned His people at Sinai to live a faithful, covenantal life as an alternative to the distortions in their lives. God’s law is wider, deeper, longer, and higher than any code of laws written for human guidance. We need to do more than know God’s commands, we need to live them.
Saint James 1:21-22 clearly states— “Humbly welcome the word that has taken root in you, with its power to save you. Be doers of the word and not hearers only”. To thank God for giving us the word, we share it, we put our faith into practice. On Judgment Day, the Lord will not ask us what we know of His Word, but how we’ve lived it: “For it is not those who hear the law who are just in the sight of the God; it is those who keep it who will be declared just” (Romans 2:13).
Jesus said on the Sermon of the Mount: “Anyone who hears My words and puts them into practice is like the wise man who built his house on rock.” (Matthew 7:24) He also promised: “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act upon it.” (Luke 8:21) A Christian, a ‘Jesus-follower’ is to be someone who demonstrates their faith in what they do every day. Less talk and more action!
When we help others, especially the poor, widows, orphans, immigrants, and other marginalized people, we facilitate Divine care in the world. Our faith is like a living tree that grows upward, outward and downward, deepening us, and broadening us.
The Bible tells us that the heart – the center of our emotions, desires and will — is the source from which flow all our thoughts, words and deeds. No one can be in a relationship with God without their heart undergoing conversion and overflowing with repentance. The more someone opens their heart to God, the more authentic and caring their relationships become with others.
Where is our center? It is our heart. In the words of Pope Francis, “The good that humanity accomplishes is not the result of calculations or policies, nor is it the result of hereditary genetics or of social status. Rather, it is the fruit of a willing heart, of free choice that seeks true goodness. Science and technology are not enough; doing good works requires wisdom of heart.”
Our hearts undergo conversion when we realize that all our goodness comes from God’s love for us. We need to keep our hearts open. If we harden our hearts toward one person, we harden our hearts to all people, including ourselves. Many saints have commented that the more deeply they saw their sin, the more fully they recognized God’s mercy and love.
Remember when the Pharisees asked Jesus to name the greatest commandment? Jesus did not point to a rule or a religious observance or a church tradition. Rather, he pointed to a relationship: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind’. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40).
Here is a standard to measure our faith. Am I a divided soul, partly doing God’s will and partly serving myself? Do I fear punishment for breaking the law, or do I allow Jesus’ law of love to set me free? How will I put God’s word into action
God can use our intelligence, our charisma, our energy, our skills, and our talents to share His message with others. While those gifts – which He gave us – are useful to Him, they are not essential. The only essential thing that God needs from us is our commitment. Only our total desire to love and serve Him with everything we have will make us more effective, authentic, and persuasive.
We need to hear Him calling us to offer understanding instead of judgment, forgiveness instead of vengeance, respect, instead of ridicule, reconciliation instead of division. May God open our hearts, our minds, our consciences, our spirits, our wills, and our lives to listen to His voice in the deepest recesses of that most sacred space: the human heart.