You Cannot Give What You Do Not Have
- Tony Brandt and Chris Stewart
There is a wise old adage that perhaps you have heard your parents tell you, ‘you can’t give what you do not have.’ This theme truly runs at the center of any ministry. The simple fact is, how can one bring Christ to others if one does not know Christ? Pope Benedict explains why Jesus taught with such effective authority about God, because He was God. The Holy Father goes on to reflect on Moses, “It was only because he spoke with God himself that Moses could bring God’s word to men” (Jesus of Nazareth, pg 265). Moses could give it because he had it.
While attempting to evangelize or catechize others it is always easy to explain away people’s lack of acceptance or enthusiasm for the Gospel message to their personal free will. While it is easy, is free will the only reason that people do not accept the Gospel? Did not the thousands of people converted by St. Francis Xavier, St. Francis de Sales, St. John Bosco, or Blsd. Teresa of Calcutta have free will acting in them? Of course. So what was the difference? We can come to only one conclusion, the instrument that delivers the message. Now, obviously it is only grace that can move someone to accept the Good News of salvation, but we cannot help but think that those who are standing in front of us would be more open to grace if it was St. John Bosco instead of us. Why is that? Because of his holiness. Because he knew and loved Christ more than we do. Therefore, instead of giving up on that young man who is not on fire for his Faith perhaps we should spend more time in prayer. As Dom Chautard put so sternly, “Educators [ie anyone who brings the Gospel to others], because we lack in intensive inner life, are unable to beget in souls anything more than a surface piety, without any powerful ideals or strong convictions” (Chautard, Soul of the Apostolate, pg 39). He would go on to reiterate that statement, “Orators, leaders, lectures, catechists, and professors: we have all had nothing but mediocre success simply because there has not been, about us, a strong enough reflection of nearness to God” (Chautard, Soul of the Apostolate, pg 189). Does this describe the success we have seen in our own apostolate?
Therefore, to have more than just lukewarm results we must make every effort to draw close to Christ. “For you can be sure that the extent to which you yourself are able to live on the love of our Lord will be the exact measure of you ability to stir it up in others” (Chautard, Soul of the Apostolate, pg 57). This growth in the spiritual life must be at the center of all that is done in our apostolate. Of course we still need to study, we still need to come up with new entertaining stories, we still need new ways to grab the attention of our audiences so that they might turn their ear to the message of God’s grace. But what grace will reach them if we are a dry well versus a torrent that the life of God rushes through. Needless to say there is no better way to shape oneself into that torrent then by staying attached to the Sacraments most especially the Eucharist. Chautard declares, “The efficacy of an apostolate almost invariably corresponds to the degree of Eucharistic life acquired by a soul” (Chautard, Soul of the Apostolate, pg 186). There is no doubt that this is why Blsd. Teresa of Calcutta insisted on time spent in prayer before the Tabernacle. Or why St. Louis the Great, King of France, went to Mass over 700 times a year. Or why Archbishop Fulton Sheen found it necessary to do an hour of Adoration everyday in order to do the type of evangelization he was so famous for. Chautard goes on to describe this connection,
“When a preacher or catechist retains in himself the warm life of the Precious Blood, when his heart is consumed with the fire that consumes the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, what life his words will have: they will burn, they will be living flames! And what effects the Eucharist will have, radiating throughout a class for instance, or through a hospital ward, or in a club, and so on, when the ones God has chosen to work there have nourished their zeal in Holy Communion, and have become Christ-bearers!” (Chautard, Soul of the Apostolate, pg 185).
That is to be like the Mother of God, the Theotokos (God-Bearer). Just as she was able to first seek God in her heart she was then able to bring the Savior to her kinswomen Elizabeth and ultimately all of mankind; so must our hope be to seek Christ in our heart, intellect and will in order to bring Christ to everyone we encounter.
Casting Nets Ministries