Dear Friends in Christ:
This past week we celebrated the Feast Day of St. John Vianney, our patron saint. As we do every year, we prayed in the Opening Prayer for the Feast Day, that through St. John Vianney’s “intercession and example we may in charity win brothers and sisters for Christ.” It is important today, more than ever, that we work and strive to “win” brothers and sisters for Christ! Now, I know some people can be a little hesitant with this kind of language but there is no need to be uncomfortable. This is the language of the bible itself. But what exactly are we praying for when we say that we want to “win” people for Christ? The “win” is not so much for us, or even Jesus – after all, Christ is already victorious over sin and death! The “win” we want is for others – that they too will share in the victory of Jesus! We want them to share in the victory that each of us knows in our lives with Jesus. We want them to have the winning experience in their lives of knowing the love of God, the joy of following Jesus, the forgiveness of their sins, and the healing of their souls. The “win” we want for others is nothing less than their eternal salvation. We want them to have heaven!
Now, if we want to win others for Christ, we must also admit that there can also be a loss. The loss that people run the chance of experiencing is, sadly, eternal damnation, eternal loss. That is not having Jesus for all eternity; that is not living with God forever in heaven. It is the will of God that all people be saved, but God does not force us to accept His love. He offers us heaven, but He does not remove the free will that He has endowed us with. Our love for God can only be something that we give freely, knowingly, and deliberately. Conversely, when we choose not to love God, we lose. The greatest loss is when people choose to forfeit the life of blessedness, happiness, and peace, that God offers us in Jesus, His Son.
Everyone is looking for something. Every human being is seeking and searching at some point in their life. The things that so many are seeking in their lives can be summed up as Belonging, Acceptance, Connection, Identity and Meaning. Some may attribute this to the context of today but, in reality, these are things people of every time and place are searching for. As Catholics, as disciples of Jesus, you and I are greatly blessed in knowing that the answer for everything that the human heart is longing for is found in Jesus Christ! God is the answer to our seeking and searching. As St. Augustine so beautifully says, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in thee O God!”
To love someone is to desire their good and there is no greater good than God who is goodness Himself. The greatest good we can want for another person is that they know and love God, that they live their lives with Jesus Christ. Much has been made of the increasing number of people in our society who no longer identify with any church or religion. With this decrease in faith, we see the results all around us and they are not good: increased suicide, division, death, loneliness, despair, depression, anger, fear, and sadly, so much more. The answer is not another government program or letter writing campaign; it is not another riot or peaceful protest; it is not shaming other people or giving three thumbs down on twitter; it is not to be found in a new piece of technology or a higher stock market. The answer to what human hearts long for is Jesus! Each of us can commit ourselves, as did St. John Vianney, to “winning” brothers and sisters for Christ. To “win” someone for Christ, first pray for them, then listen to them, then share with them the joy and truth of Jesus’s love for them and invite them to share our life. Invite them to come to Mass with you, to pray with you. Invite them to consider becoming Catholic. God is good and we want everyone to share in His infinite goodness.
In pace Christi,