May 2023 Allocutio
Do not be afraid to share your faith
Fr. Paul Churchill
Concilium Spiritual Director
The Last Judgement scene in the Sistine Chapel reminds us of our dies irae. Which of these will we hear? “Come you blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world” or “Depart from me you wicked servant into the fire prepared for the Devil and his angels” (Matt. 25: 31-46). That for each of us, not just for cardinals and Popes, has to be the one thought above all that should motivate us: will we be saved or will we face a never-ending descent into a bottomless abyss of despair?
What does saving my soul or anyone else’s mean? Our Lord put us on guard: “Not everyone who says ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matt. 7:21-23). And He warned pharisees that they sometimes go out to convert some to their faith but make them more citizens of hell than they themselves (Matt. 23:15). He also warns against those who think they are holy, like the pharisee in the Temple who did not go back home as right with God as did the publican (Lk. 18:10-14). And we can add St. Paul’s story to that, of someone who was once the most zealous for God but who was on the wrong road (Gal. 1:11-16)
So, a challenge to us all: how can we be sure we are on the road to salvation and not on a wrong road? St Paul will look at himself and see how his own efforts often got him nowhere and he cries, “Wretched man that I am. Who will deliver me from this body of death?” And then he adds, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rm. 7:24-25). Paul speaks of that gift of Grace from Christ that brings us salvation. St. Augustine also emphasises that it is not by our own efforts that we will be saved but by Grace. But why go to those saints when Our Lord himself said so clearly at the Last Supper, “Without me you can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5). Indeed, how many hit rock bottom before the grace of God came to help them?
In our search for the best way forward we should turn to the most pivotal of all creatures, Our Lady. “My spirit rejoices in God my Saviour. For he looks on his servant in her lowliness. For the Almighty does marvels for me” (Lk. 1:47-49). Our Lady tells us in her words that it is God who has saved her. It is why and how she is graced. It is through being little and realising more and more that we cannot save ourselves, but need God’s help, that we will be saved. Let me return to Paul, “My grace is enough for you Paul, my power is made perfect in weakness!” (2 Cor. 12:9).
Let me tell you a true story. A family man who practiced and witnessed to Eucharistic adoration in his community received a phone call on a Christmas night after he had returned home from Midnight Mass. The caller begged to meet him since he was in great distress: he had gambled away all his money and had nothing for his family. How could he go home? He was suicidal. The man who received the call was left with a dilemma. Why? As was the practice in his family a bottle of wine had been opened that Christmas night and by the time the telephone call came in he knew it would be unwise to drive to see this man. So, he asked him where he was. When the man explained his location, he told him to walk down to the street corner and to look down a side street and to a door. The Eucharistic adorer said to him “Go down to that door and push it in. Enter the room on the left. The boss will see you there.” The man with the addiction asked how would he recognise the boss. The other replied, “You’ll see him in the Monstrance”. The addict let out a few expletives and hung up. All the eucharistic adorer could do was say a prayer for the man.
A few days later our adorer met some colleagues who told him that that same night they had been in the house of adoration and at one stage they heard a man come in who was clearly tensed up and not in the best state as he sat at the back of the room. But as time went on, he seemed to calm down and eventually went off. This addict was later to explain that having nothing left he had gone to the house all in a mess and gone in and sat at the back behind several adorers who were praying quietly. That had affected him. The net result was that he went home, apologised in full for all his immaturity, changed his ways and now is one of the leading Eucharistic adorers in the town.
I note a few things. The first is that the adorer had himself a strong relationship with the Lord of the Eucharist. Secondly, he shared his faith even if he got an ear blistering response. Thirdly his sharing had an effect. Let us remember Paul’s words: “How are men to believe in Him of whom they have not heard. And how are they to hear unless someone speaks to them” (Rm. 10:14). I say to you all who try to share your faith anywhere: never be discouraged. As door after door is closed with no one showing interest, just keep knocking. For as God says, “For just as the rain and the snow come down from the sky and do not go back but water the earth making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the Sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose and prosper in the thing for which I sent it” (Is. 55: 10-11). I could not but note these words of St. Paul earlier this week, “Do not be afraid to speak out, nor allow yourself to be silenced. I am with you!” (Acts 18:9).
What stops us sharing our faith? Fear! We’re afraid that we are inadequate. We fear we have not enough knowledge. We fear rejection and rebuff and scorn and jeers. But the Lord says “Do not be afraid!” We are not unlike those apostles and disciples who hid themselves. But Our Lady understands us as she did them. She knew they needed the Holy Spirit. I will not be surprised if it turns out that it was she who got them together to pray and prayed with them. But above all, as the great dispenser of the Holy Spirit as Albert the Great called her, as the one whom Frank Duff has described as being almost the embodiment of the Holy Spirit, certainly as the great catalyst of the Holy Spirit, it was she above all who won them the great Spirit of God’s love that overcomes all fear.
So, in this Pentecostal season we should all pray and ask her to win for us the help of that Holy Spirit so that we will have the faith and courage to share our faith, in season and out of season, and help bring to others the great things God has done for us all. Mary, mother of the Church, pray for us. Amen