Sometimes, being an apologist can be very difficult. We are often obliged to explain our Faith to people who are not open to that which we say. Hours can be—and often are—spent explaining Catholicism to and defending Catholicism from such people… to no avail. No amount of words and no amount of eloquence or clarity makes a difference. The non-believer remains just that—a non-believer. At such times, it is quite natural to experience a feeling of inadequacy.
“If only I had been clearer.”
“If only I knew more.”
Not very long ago I was speaking with a friend of mine about this. I told her what a very wise person once told me; that faith is a supernatural gift given by God alone, and everyone has the choice to accept it or reject it. We—no matter how knowledgeable—cannot give someone the gift of faith, and we—no matter how eloquent—cannot force someone to accept it. “There must be a conversion of heart, not just a conversion of mind. Unfortunately, I don't have an argument which brings that.” I said, assuring her that I would pray for her and her non-believer.
It just so happened that this non-believer, a self-proclaimed atheist, overheard our conversation and he later contacted me. He had been struck by one phrase: conversion of heart. He had recognized the need of this in his own life and goals, whatever those were. He knew that if he were to succeed in anything, he would have to throw himself into it heart and soul. He valued a conversion of heart. He also confided that his dislike of Christians stems from their lack of it. He called Christians “shallow” and their involvement in their faith “surface-level”. I would have liked to have told him that he was wrong, but I couldn’t. Because, he was absolutely right.
In a moment of honesty, I have to admit that many times I have picked up my faith and love of Jesus on the doorstep of the church and left it in the Holy Water on the way out. The times are rather scarce when I actually ponder the Gospel’s message and try to see how I can apply it in my own life. It is not often that I find the “ora in the labora” and offer my dish-washing and kid-sitting to Jesus. I realized that though my Faith is supposed to also be a lifestyle, a paradigm, the screen through which I see every moment of my life… though it is supposed to characterize every breathe I take… it is very easy to fall into the habit of only truly living it one hour a week, on Sunday. Have you noticed this? Have you seen the shallowness that my friend’s non-believer has seen? When was the last time that you were able to walk into Wal-Mart and, looking at all the people, pick out the Christians? When was the last time you were able to say honestly to someone, “You make Jesus real for me.”? Considering that we are all called to be saints, whatever number you give won’t be high enough!
When the rubber hits the road, knowledge isn’t worth much. You could have the entire Catechism of the Catholic Church memorized and it doesn’t necessarily prove anything. Faith is what counts, and it isn’t real unless it permeates every part of your life, no matter how small, as surely as our omnipresent God fills every space of the earth. If you are going to make a difference in someone else’s life, you must first show that there is something different about yours. So, if you are not an apologist, take heart: you don’t have to memorize the Summa! The best way and perhaps the only way to change someone’s heart is to make Jesus real for them. Do you make Jesus real for people?