Homily, Saturday of the 16th Week of Ordinary Time
June 23, 2016
Fr. Charlie Fox, Spiritual Director, St. Paul Street Evangelization (www.streetevangelization.com)
There is an expression we use in the Catholic Church, first associated with St. Francis de Sales and later with Blessed John Henry Newman, which in the Latin they used is “Cor ad cor loquitur,” or, “Heart speaks to heart.”
This saying, or motto, expresses a deep truth about the way humans communicate with one another. There is a level of communication that runs deeper than the words we say, deeper even than the raw logic of the points we make. Certainly, communicating “from the heart” needs words and needs logic. But to speak from your heart means that you’re communicating something of your very self to another person.
In the Bible, we have a very rich understanding of the word “heart”. It’s not just about an organ of the body, but it’s also not simply about the part of us that flutters when we see someone we love, the emotional part of us. In Scripture, the heart is the deepest core of the person. It is the seat of human decision-making. It’s the part of us involved in our deepest commitments. It’s the part of us that loves, especially with the self-sacrificing love of Jesus Christ.
Why all this reflection on the heart? Because I’d like to propose, first, that we who are called to be Catholic evangelists are called to speak “heart-to-heart” with the people we evangelize. The overwhelming experience of our St. Paul Street Evangelization evangelists, for example, has been that personal witness is a much more decisive factor in our evangelization than winning intellectual arguments (though we need to be intellectually sound in what we say).
Second, in today’s readings, we see some of the most important qualities that need to be in your hearts, my heart, and the hearts of all evangelizers.
The first of these qualities is the will to speak God’s word rather than a message of my own invention. What is the first thing the Lord tells Jeremiah to say? “Hear the word of the LORD, all you of Judah!” It’s so easy, and so tempting, to adjust religion to suit my own inclinations. But God gives us a word to speak, and we rob people of the gift God wants to give them when we preach our own word. Of course, each of us has a unique personality and a unique way of expressing herself or himself. But we need to be nourished by Scripture, the Church’s Tradition (especially as found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church), the Mass and other sacraments, and personal prayer, so that we are speaking God’s saving word.
The second quality we need to have is a longing for heaven. We just heard in the Responsorial Psalm: “My soul yearns and pines for the courts of the LORD. My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.” Be honest with yourself: does your soul yearn and pine for heaven? Do your heart and your flesh cry out for God? If the answer is “yes”, then make sure to try and share that desire with people, but do it in a way that is sensitive to their situation, to their need to grow. Don’t crush them with your enthusiasm. If you are lacking in this desire, then simply turn to God in prayer and ask for it, and keep asking! Evangelization is about helping people go to heaven. We aren’t living for this world, and people are already bombarded with messages telling them how to live for this world. They need someone telling them that there’s something more, what that something is, and how to claim the inheritance God has for them.
A third quality the heart of every evangelizer needs is a love for all people. Here we need to look at today’s Gospel about the wheat and the weeds. Remember that Christianity is not about nice people doing nice things with other nice people. God loves all people, even those who look like “weeds”, and He calls us to do what we can to bring everyone to conversion and a living relationship with Jesus Christ in His Church. God desires the salvation of all people (I Timothy 2:4), and it’s not our job to narrow the focus on people we find easy to like. We may have to suspend our active engagement with some people for a time because we’re simply not being productive (or things are even headed in the wrong direction), but we can never give up on people or rule them out as “hopeless”.
Fourth and finally (at least for this list), the heart of an evangelizer needs to be completely surrendered to God’s will and His plan. That is another message from today’s Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds. Evangelization is not a kind of work we can plan out with great precision and from which we can expect very specific results. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta is often quoted as saying it is our job not to be successful, but to be faithful. There’s a lot of truth in that. You never know what impact you might be having on another person, what seeds you might be planting in her or his heart. And remember that evangelization is good for you, too. It helps you get to heaven, to become more fully alive in Christ.
The Holy Eucharist we celebrate today is described by the Church as the “source and summit of evangelization.” The Mass is where we come to make present once again the ultimate act of salvation, the Passion and death of Jesus Christ on Calvary. This is where Jesus becomes present to us in His Body and Blood, nourishing us and making us more like Him. This is the moment when He will continue to shape our hearts, making them like His own Sacred Heart, so that we can share His love with a world that so desperately needs Him.