“While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him” (Luke 15:20).
We define “big deal” in all the wrong ways. We think we’re not big deals unless we get a million likes on an Instagram post. We think the work God calls us to is not a big deal unless it’s on a big stage. We confuse things that are widely noticed with things that are very important because we measure things with man’s ruler rather than God’s.
The “size” of our impact isn’t important. People are important! The one lost sheep is all that matters to the shepherd. The prodigal son is all that matters in the world to the father.
John Paul II wasn’t a saint because he preached around the globe. He was a saint because he was an authentic witness everywhere he went. He loved speaking to the masses, but that’s only because he loved each person. “I don’t like the word ‘crowd,’ which seems too anonymous,” he wrote. “I prefer the word ‘multitude.’”
In 1983 after his appointment as bishop of Duluth, Bishop Robert Brom got to meet with Pope John Paul II for what he thought was the first time. John Paul, looking pensively at Bishop Brom’s face said, “I think we have met before.” The bishop assured the pope that they’d never met. (People usually remember whether or not they’d met a pope!)
Some days later the secretary to the Holy Father approached Bishop Brom and said, “Don’t argue with the pope, he remembers when he met you.”
“When?” Brom asked.
“In November of 1963 outside the Church of the Gesu in Rome.”
The memory flashed back to the meeting he had with a polish cardinal when he was a young seminarian. “How can he do that?” he asked. The secretary explained that for John Paul to meet another person is to encounter God.
John Paul II was effective at reaching millions because only one person mattered to him: the person in front of him. For John Paul II, every person was the prodigal son. The lost sheep. The woman at the well. The apostle in the making. The presence of God in his midst.
Being an evangelist does not mean you have to change jobs. It means you have to change your priorities and values. It means you perceive the infinite value of every soul, starting with the people in your own family. It means you share in the thirst Jesus had on the cross for each and every person to know his love. When that happens you no longer go on to the football field as an athlete, or into your office as a computer programmer. Everywhere you go, you go as an ambassador for the King of heaven and earth.
You’re kind of a big deal. And so is every soul God puts within your reach. Remember that and you’ll change the world.
Chris Stefanik contributes to RealLifeCatholic.com.