Pensacola, FL. Often you’ll hear people who serve others say that they end up gaining more than they get. This is often true. The reason for it is that we were created in the image and likeness of God, who is Love. When we love authentically, unselfishly, then we experience it as peace, joy, insight – in a word, we flourish. This is evident in a report from Jim Havens of the Pensacola, Florida team, about a blessed change going on inside of him, as he reaches out to others through street evangelization:
“For me, something amazing is happening. A profound experience began for me during our last outing to the market, it continued through Gallery Night a week later, and it continues still. God is opening up new areas in my heart that I did not even know were there. … I have long known what it is to experience a deep, authentic love for my own family, and even for a parish family, but a new love has emerged: a love for the greater community here in Pensacola.”
Because ‘love’ has so many meanings, Jim explains himself further:
“What I first experienced two Saturdays ago was a new love for the community that went beyond will. It was the awakening of an affectionate love that showed me the deep goodness of the other (the greater Pensacola community) and it gave me great joy just for being there in the encounter. Not only did I choose love (which is why I was there in the first place), but I was engulfed in it. I could not manufacture that experience – I could only receive it as a gift, and then rest in it with gratitude and awe. Truly, I did not even know such an experience existed. It followed the trajectory of my will but also went beyond it, and yet as a result, it supplied me with a greater ease in choosing love thereafter. I pray it lasts forever. … [This] is the best I can do right now in attempting to explain it.”
Then, Jim shows us the connection between what he does on the street and what he does at Church. Love begets Love:”
“On a more practical level, this is why I go to Jesus in the Mass right before I go to share Him on the street every time. There is no better way to unite our hearts to His than in the Holy Mass. I need to experience His love for me and I need to be refreshed in His love for me over and over again. Likewise, I need to experience His love for others and I need to be refreshed in His love for others over and over again. In this way, He continues to surprise me by changing my heart in new and unexpected ways. Love is a choice and love is a gift. This is a mystery worth pondering, even more it is worth experiencing.”
Thank you, Jim, for your inspiring witness. When all is said and done, street evangelization is about journeying into the heart of Divine Love, bringing others along with us as we go. To get love, we must love. But to love is to give love. We are given love first, by God, and then we give love; and in so doing we gain love all the more. Praised be the Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Eternal Father, for revealing Divine Love to us!