Jesus sent out these twelve instructing them, … “Go … to the lost sheep … As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons (Matthew 10:5-8).
I am so little, so sinful and broken. Yet my heart longs to serve the Lord by bringing souls to Him. I took this contradiction of my littleness versus this big desire to prayer and these are the thoughts that the Lord brought to my heart:
As you go. As you go, I will deliver you from your sinfulness and brokenness. As you proclaim, I will deliver. As you cure, drive out, cleanse and feed, I will deliver you. In this sending and serving, you will be cleansed as you cleanse. But do not make a to-do list based on these tasks. I will tell you what, where, when and how only as you need, as you go. No program, no ministry is necessary, only openness to my Holy Spirit. In service, love and offering, you will find freedom and be a font of truth, mercy and grace. This font will flow to the lost sheep that I will bring to you to encourage, to pray with, to love and to turn back to me. You are free to go now, not constrained from doing my will by your littleness and sinfulness. Watch your sinfulness and brokenness lose their power, “as you go.”
Many of us in this world of growing darkness are feeling a contradictory growing hope and an urge to go and spread the Good News of authentic freedom in Jesus. But we have full and busy lives just living out our vocation as best we can, overcoming our own sinful tendencies as best we can. We see great works being done by the great-souled and think to ourselves, “but I am so little.”
We all have different gifts and talents. We all have different charisms and styles. We are not all called to the same type of evangelization, but we are all called. If we call ourselves Christians, disciples, then we are called to proclaim the Good News. What that looks like for each individual will be as unique as each soul.
The Sacrament of the Present Moment
For many of us “little ones” the only way we can even imagine proceeding in this task, which burns our hearts as much as the great-souled, is by total abandonment to Jesus. In his book, Abandonment to Divine Providence, Jean-Pierre de Caussade outlines a simple method of always doing God’s will for us little ones. This method is by simply practicing what de Caussade calls the Sacrament of the Present Moment, which is also what this 300-year-old book is often entitled today. De Caussade states in this work:
What God arranges for us to experience at each moment is the best and holiest thing that could happen to us…The will of God is now manifesting itself in those circumstances which are the duty of the present moment…All our moments are made productive by our obedience to the will of God, which reveals itself in a thousand different ways, each of which successively becomes our immediate duty…We have to do nothing except allow his holy will to work within us and surrender ourselves to it blindly with absolute confidence.
We little ones needn’t come up with strategies, programs or ministries and burden ourselves with weights too great for us to carry. We need only remain close to God in prayer and the Sacraments and abandon ourselves to whatever He wills us to do in this moment.
The Duty of the Moment
Though this pathway to holiness does not speak specifically about evangelization, as Christians we are all called to evangelize. In His mercy, God will show us how to do so in the duty of the present moment. It may be through the boldness to offer to pray with a cashier who confides a sorrow, or a gentle correction of someone who speaks ill of the Church out of ignorance and misinformation. Perhaps a neighbor is going through a health crisis and a Catholic book on healing, or an upcoming healing Mass, comes to mind. That little nudge you are feeling may actually be God asking you, in this present moment, to respond with a simple service like passing on a book or a bit of information.
Instead of trying to squeeze our desire to evangelize into some other soul’s sized box, little souls are called to simply abandon their will to God’s, and spread the Good News as they go. Do not mistake this method for an impoverished version of what the great-souled evangelizers do. God is no respsecter of persons and gives as much grace through doorkeepers as he does through leaders of huge apostolates. Think of all of the great saints who literally opened the door to Christ by being present to the duty of the moment at the door of their monastery or Church! St. Faustina, St. Andre Bessette and St. Bakhita quickly come to mind, but there are many others. They did not do anything except pursue personal holiness and be present to the souls God brought to them, accomplishing the tasks He gave them to do which were consistent with their vocations.
Sometimes these tasks, consistent with their vocations, lead to great works. But God in His great mercy to the little soul always does these works by baby steps. St. Andre Bessette who was forty years a porter, or doorkeeper, for his congregation, started building the now great St. Joseph’s Oratory, by collecting nickels and dimes from the haircuts he gave to schoolboys. Baby step by baby step, the Lord led St. Andre to build a small shed, then a better shelter, then adding heating, etc. By the time of the saint’s death, the basilica that exists in Montreal today was well under construction. But St. Andre was a little soul. He was sickly all his life. He came to the Holy Cross Fathers with almost no education. What he did have was a great trust in God and total abandonment to His will. People were drawn to him because of his humility and kindness. No one left him without feeling the touch of Christ. He evangelized in the present moment, trusting God to do the real work of converting hearts.
In a very different way another saint who was a doorkeeper for a time, St. Faustina Kowalska, evangelized by baby steps, in complete abandonment to God’s will and properly ordered to her vocation. In obedience to her spiritual director and to the Lord himself in his appearances to her, St. Faustina kept a detailed diary of her spiritual life. These daily, little baby steps were not beyond the ability of a sickly nun with many other duties to attend to. Today, copies of her diary, Divine Mercy in My Soul, number in the millions and countless conversions and vocations are attributed to it. This great work was done by a little soul by taking baby steps, being abandoned to God’s will and prayerfully practicing the duty of the moment.
Being Present in the Moment
In order for evangelization in the present moment to occur, we must abandon our will to God’s. But this is not all that’s required. We cannot abandon our will to God’s and then remain in the world in practice and in spirit. We need to be present. To be present to the moment and the people God brings to us in this moment, we must be absent from other distractions. If we are half listening to our child while half answering emails or texts, we are not being present. If we are hurrying through the grocery store while planning the next five errands we “have to” run, we will miss the look of sorrow and distress on the cashier’s face. If we are never at home, we won’t know about our neighbor’s illness.
By trying to keep up the frenetic pace that society imposes, we lose out on the present moments of each day, always looking forward to that eventual time when we can relax and enjoy life. God wants us to enjoy life now. He wants us to share joy and sorrow and hope and encouragement with the people he puts in our life now. The old saying that “this day is a gift, that’s why it’s called the present” is true. God keeps giving us these gifts, but we tend to ignore them in favor of the vague future which never comes. I’ll teach my kids about the faith someday. I’ll get over to that neighbor’s after the holidays. I’ll slow down after the ministry fair. But someday never comes because the world will always pull us deeper into the future, further into obligations and burdens we were never meant to bear, and never allow us to savor the present moment. We are the only ones who can stop this cycle and the tyranny of the pace of an always connected, future oriented world.
Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil (Matthew 6:34).
Sufficient for a day, also, is its own blessings, its own good. But we will miss out on that good, and the little opportunities to shine a light on the Giver of all that is good, if we are not present now.
Happy New Year!
We are on the verge of a new year. It’s a wonderful time for making resolutions and many of us do this. Instead of piling another burden on your already overburdened shoulders, why not consider putting all of them down, praying, and asking the Lord which ones you really ought to be shouldering and which ones you shouldn’t. Then let the unnecessary ones go, abandoning them and yourself to God. He will show you how to release them with integrity and honor, perhaps freeing others to examine their own overburdened lives and do the same. Then begin practicing this Sacrament, this holy sign of God’s presence, of the Present Moment. It won’t be very long at all before, with your cell phone on silent in your pocket, some precious soul senses that you are actually present and opens up to you. Then, sensing the Holy Spirit nudging you, you will be free to say whatever God tells you to say, give what He tells you to give, do what He tells you to do.
If you’re a little soul like I am, this is all you can do. Trying to do other things imposed by other spirits than the Holy One only leads to problems in marriage, family, friends and ultimately, in your relationship with God. Staying present to the moment God gives is a simple but radical way for even little ones to evangelize by baby steps, and prayerfully, to become holy along the way. As we go, Jesus comes with us, proclaims, and feeds through us, and cures our own brokenness and sinfulness along the way. By Jesus’ power, the little that we can do becomes the grace that evangelizes the world, even as it heals our own souls.