Q&A with Mary Healy

Q&A with Mary Healy


Dr. Mary Healy, Professor of Scripture at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, is a bestselling author and international speaker. She is a general editor of the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture and author of two of its volumes, The Gospel of Mark and Hebrews. Her other books include The Spiritual Gifts Handbook and Healing: Bringing the Gift of God’s Mercy to the World. She was appointed by Pope Francis as one of the first three women ever to serve on the Pontifical Biblical Commission.

Q: What are the most pressing cultural challenges to evangelization that you encounter? 01

I’d like to mention three. First, radical secularism. It’s done deep damage to the human spirit. Many people in our time are affected by a kind of spiritual numbness. Beginning from childhood, they’ve been overstimulated, over-scheduled, over-indulged and overexposed to sexual content. They’ve been taught that self-fulfillment, sexual freedom and economic success are the highest values. So they often seem to have lost interest in the most important questions of life: Why do I exist? What is my mission in life and how do I fulfill it? What is true love and how do I find it? Many people today show indifference to these deeper questions. But no matter what, those questions are there beneath the surface.

Second, many people are carrying deep inner wounds, whether due to family breakdown, sexual exploitation or the shallowness of screen-based relationships. There can be a hidden fear of allowing God in and letting wounds be exposed. But this challenge becomes an opportunity! When people begin to sense the emptiness of contemporary secular culture, they seek for something more. And when they discover Jesus can heal the deepest wounds of their heart, they begin to open themselves to his grace.

A third big challenge is that people have been fed the absurd myth that there is a conflict between science and religion, between reason and Christian faith. Of course the opposite is true: Christianity, and in particular the Catholic Church, has been the greatest promoter of science and the champion of reason, while at the same time recognizing the limitations of reason. People need and deserve to hear the solid reasons for Christian faith. People need to know that believing in Christ does not mean becoming irrational, but discovering the great fulfillment of human reason.

Q: What are the unique opportunities for sharing faith that we can maximize today? What have you seen draw people to Christ? 02

There’s no replacement for a real encounter with God’s power and the holiness of his people. What is immensely effective in evangelization is a return to the original “method” that Jesus himself used and commanded his disciples to use: proclaiming the gospel accompanied by healings and miracles. These are the Lord’s “audiovisual aids” by which he confirms the truth of the message. I’ve seen again and again that when we are willing to take risks in faith as we evangelize, the Lord backs us up through the power of the Holy Spirit. The gospel is a message in words that addresses the human being’s capacity for truth, but it is also a message of power that brings people into a personal encounter with Jesus.

Also indispensable and non-negotiable in evangelization is the witness of a holy life. Even though the world makes fun of holiness, in reality, holiness has never lost its attractiveness. Especially today in our narcissistic culture, getting to know a person who is authentically self-giving, pure-hearted, humble, prayerful, joyful and in love with Jesus can be transformative. Personal holiness is a compelling testimony to the truth of the gospel.

Q: How can Christians of varying backgrounds unite in service of a wider commitment to sharing and living out the gospel of Jesus? 03

As Pope John Paul II wrote, “What unites us is much greater than what divides us.” Yes, there are very real and significant theological differences that cannot be papered over, but unity will come first and foremost through prayer and deeper conversion to Christ on the part of every Christian.

As a Catholic, I am thrilled if an evangelical or Pentecostal brings a secular person to faith in Christ and membership in their church. They have brought a lost sinner home to God! I hope that they would think the same way about Catholic evangelization. Our goal is the same: to fulfill Jesus’ commission to go and make disciples of all nations. So we should look for creative ways to partner in evangelization and works of charity. An area of immense potential for collaboration is the arts and tech—film, drama, painting, literature, music and the internet.

Q: A sense of negative Church reputation holds back many non-Christians from considering Christian faith. How can we navigate that reality and move the gospel forward? 04

The fact that the crimes and cover-ups of more than a few church leaders have made headlines around the world, causing countless people to be repelled by the Church, is a source of unspeakable grief for Catholics. Yet the Lord is using this crisis. Catholics have sometimes tended to focus too much on the Church and too little on Jesus. Our evangelization has at times been Church-centric instead of Christocentric.

As Cardinal Avery Dulles once wrote, “The Church has one inescapable task: to lift up Christ. When she seeks to lift herself up, the Church becomes weak, but when she acknowledges her own weakness and proclaims her Lord, she is strong.” And St. Paul reminds us, “What we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Cor 4:5). The crisis is helping us correct these theological distortions and place our full focus where it needs to be: on Jesus our crucified and risen Lord, the only one who can fulfill the deepest longings of the human heart.

So the best way for us to navigate this situation is to be honest, to disavow any kind of triumphalism and to admit the Church is filled with fallen human beings. We are truly a hospital for sinners.

Even our shepherds may fail us, sometimes horrendously. It is not the first time and will not be the last. But our faith is not in them. It is in him. Jesus the Lord is in the Church, and despite all its failures he continues to give himself to us in the sacraments and to pour out rivers of grace and mercy on all who come to him.

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