It is very fitting that on the Feast of St. John Neumann we hear the beautiful words of the First letter of John "God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him" (1 John 4:14). This "little bishop" was certainly not a great administrator. As fourth bishop of Philadelphia, he was considered by many to be an organizational disaster. But he understood that he was first and foremost to be the presence of God in the lives of people. And so he went about trying to show them that God was present by loving them. He had special care for the many immigrants who were part of his vast diocese, traveling for weeks to different areas to minister to them, usually in their own language. Himself an immigrant, Neumann knew that God is not limited by borders or language, but rather shows Himself whenever love is present. And love knows no boundaries, save those we put on expressing it.
Many people believe that evangelization is a complicated task. Shouldn't you have programs, classes, resources? On the contrary, I think that St. John Neumann showed that it is really very simple. What we need to do is start loving more. Once we do this, God becomes present and then it is much easier to unfold the truths of the faith to those who have been enveloped by this Love. No, the evangelizing is not difficult. The difficult part is loving, because it involves a risk.
Are we willing to take that risk? Are we willing to love the stranger? The newcomer? The immigrant? The homeless person? the nasty neighbor? the clerk at the store? The driver who cuts us off?
If we can love the other, they experience God, whether they know it or not. And once you experience God, you are never the same.
Thousands of people were changed by the "little bishop" of Philadelphia, because he loved them. As you think of the many people you love, I hope you realize that this love that binds you together is God. And as you think about it, please share your love with others, so that they too may experience God. Remember: Love makes God present, because God is Love!