Changing the World Begins with Me

by Fr. Émile Brière

Christianity remains sterile until it is practiced. To be effective, the tremendous truths Christ taught must guide, direct, and impregnate the daily actions of his followers. His words are not only to be learned, but to be lived. "Whoever does the will of my heavenly Father, is brother and sister and mother to me," Christ says in the Gospel of Matthew (ch 12, vs 50). To do the will of God right now—that's what matters, that's what makes Christianity a living thing, that's what makes all the difference in the world.

But it isn't always easy. It requires vigilance, self-control, openness of mind and heart. It requires trust in God and dependence upon his grace, his strength, his love.

The loyal Christian is daily engaged in a struggle, as well as a love affair. For daily demands are made upon his love by events and circumstances. How he responds to these calls from day to day, from moment to moment, means success or failure for Christ and his Church. It determines his own spiritual growth or decay. In the little tests of daily life Christ's redemptive work triumphs or fails, the Church, the Body of Christ grows stronger or weakens; peace and love spread throughout the world or are limited; a lover of God or a lover of self is fashioned.

We may or may not have to face tough decisions, searing temptations, or overwhelming pressures every day. But each one of us daily faces the decision of opening heart and mind, or closing them off, to the people and responsibilities close at hand. How we respond at that moment matters immensely to ourselves, to Christ and his Church, and to all people. To keep my heart open right now to the Holy Spirit—that's the most important thing in the world for me at this moment.

For it is right now that I am asked to love, to forget myself, to serve. Not tomorrow, not next week or next month—but right now. Right now the Holy Spirit is ready to assist my weakness, to melt my heart of stone, to shake off my lethargy. Right now the powerful forces of faith and hope and love can be unleashed in me.

I can walk another mile with whoever forces me to go for one mile. I can refrain from judging. I can concentrate on the moment's duty. I can turn the other cheek. I can be patient in an unpleasant situation. I can trust in God. I can ask forgiveness for my sins. I can express my sorrow to a person whom I have offended.

But all this requires a certain self-control. If my first reaction to a person or a task is one of resentment or fear or rejection, I must see clearly that this is my moment of struggle, my opportunity, my challenge. This is the price all must pay for growth in maturity, in responsibility and in love. I must appreciate that my response matters to Christ and to all men. I must quickly cry to the Holy Spirit abiding within me; thus will love grow among humankind and evil decrease.

Christ has told us that "the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force" (Gospel of Matthew, ch 11, vs 12). Who are these ‘violent'? Those who do violence to themselves, who struggle with their unhealthy emotions, who pray for a warm and merciful heart. Those who live dependently upon the Lord and who rely solely upon the power of his Love. Those who desire to become passionate lovers of the God who is love.

Each time they allow Christ to triumph in them, all people feel the effects of his redemption, and the terrible ordeal of Calvary is made worthwhile once again. And the parousia draws nearer, that is, Christ's kingdom of peace and love.

As previous generations, we too carry the burden of many problems, but with this immense difference, that the problems facing us are urgent and of mammoth proportions. Daily we read or hear of wars and danger of greater wars. We read of the poor and of immense injustice and greed. The experts propose plans to solve these problems. But all of their plans depend for success on one condition: that people love one another. In the measure in which we care for one another, cooperate with one another, sacrifice for one another, in that measure will we resolve the seemingly impossible difficulties of our age.

If we love one another! If there is love among all men, then will warfare be averted. Then will the hungry be fed and the naked clothed and the ignorant instructed. Then, and only then. With this truth in mind, how can we refuse the little struggles of daily life? How can we not exercise our own God-given power to love so that the world may be healed?

– adapted from his book, The Power of Love