"I think we get overwhelmed when we think we on our own must change the whole world or that we on our own cannot change the difficult issues that are facing us," says Bishop Hughes. "And there is rightness to that: on our own, we cannot do it. But if every single one of us does a little bit, if every single one of us does one thing only, then God, working through us, is able to make big changes in the world." (Time: 4:41.)
This is Bishop Hughes in the Diocese of Newark. When I ask people how they're doing these days, most often they tell me that they are overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by pandemic that seems to be never ending and leads to all kinds of challenges. And how to keep oneself safe and one's family safe. Overwhelmed by those who refuse to wear a mask and refuse to get vaccinated when we all know that the path to freedom from pandemic are those two things. Overwhelmed by the state of the world. We all watched Afghanistan with our hearts breaking over the last two weeks and it wasn't just the hearts of those in the United States, it was the hearts of people all over the world watching that scenario as it played out. Overwhelmed by the changes in our climates. Whoever would have thought that in New Jersey we would need to be careful and watch out for tornadoes but as it turns out, this time of year, on a regular basis, we need to have our eyes out for tornadoes in New Jersey.
I understand why people are overwhelmed and I want to invite us to remember the way Jesus spoke to the disciples and spoke to us. In Matthew, when Jesus sent the disciples out, he said, “I send you out like sheep among wolves; you will need to be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves.” And that is still our role. The same way the disciples had that role, we face a complex stew of very hard and difficult, thorny issues – some that feel downright hostile to us, the way a wolf would be snapping at our heels. And it's going to take wisdom, it is going to take discernment to decide what we do with our time and what we do with our attention. And it will take that innocence – the innocence and purity that comes from knowing that God is with us and knowing that God loves us – in order to face that which we need to face.
I think we get overwhelmed when we think we, on our own, must change the whole world or that we, on our own, cannot change the difficult issues that are facing us. And there is rightness to that: on our own, we cannot do it. But if every single one of us does a little bit, if every single one of us does one thing only, then God, working through us, is able to make big changes in the world.
So I encourage you – today even – to start. Start with picking one thing, one thing that you're going to do. What's one thing you can do in your family or in your household – to have that conversation with them or take that one action in order to help everyone be safe or feel safe? What's one thing that you can do to help people who are displaced – like those Afghan refugees and so many refugees that are needing help in our country and across the world? What one phone call can you make, what one gift can you offer, what one thing can you do about climate care? I know I find that to be a large topic and I feel like I cannot make a difference… but the one thing I can do today is drive less. So today, I will drive less. That is my one thing to do.
Our one thing takes us away from thinking that we've got to fix the whole world on our own or that the world is impossible to fix. And if each of us does our one thing, then there we are being wise like Jesus told us to be. Wise and relying on God in that pure and innocent way that Jesus asked us to rely on God – the God who goes before us, the God who goes with us, and the God who goes behind us – helping us to accomplish that one thing.
Start with one thing today.