You hear people ask all the time: why doesn’t God just fix all the world’s problems. Why doesn’t He just manifest Himself and save everyone? The answer may be . . . us. We are the reason why God doesn’t do these things.
Strictly speaking God does not need us at all. However, God has chosen to save the world through the mediation of others. Christ is the mediator between God and man, who has won for us all that we could ever need. And yet, God has willed to bestow these gifts on the world through other human beings. Protestantism seemed to deny the need for mediation – God interacts with us and saves us directly. Yet, the Bible is very clear that salvation comes to us from God through others.
The Church is the Mystical Body of Christ, through which He gives us His truth and grace. He gives us His grace through the sacramental mediation of the priesthood and His truth through the ministry of preaching. On the first point Aquinas explains that God makes use of instrumental causes to give us His grace in the sacraments: “the sacraments are instrumental causes of spiritual effects. Now an instrument has its power from the principal agent. But an agent in respect of a sacrament is twofold; viz. he who institutes the sacraments, and he who makes use of the sacrament instituted, by applying it for the production of the effect” (ST III, q. 64, a. 2). On the second point, St. Paul explains that we come to faith only by hearing the Gospel communicated by others: “But how are men to call upon him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher? And how can men preach unless they are sent?” (Romans 10:14-15).
We tend to think of salvation in individualistic terms: either I say yes to God or I don’t. My relationship with God is just about me and Him. In reality, we are deeply connected to each other. We see how our faith impacts others in the account of the healing of the paralytic: “And behold, men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they sought to bring him in and lay him before Jesus; but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus. And when he saw their faith he said, ‘Man, your sins are forgiven you’” (Luke 5:18-20). Conversely, we hear that Jesus “did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief” (Matthew 13:58). God works through the belief of others to bring people to faith.
We find a good image of how God uses what we bring to Him in the miracle of the loaves and fishes. “Jesus said, ‘They need not go away; you give them something to eat.’ They said to him, ‘We have only five loaves here and two fish.’ And he said, ‘Bring them here to me’” (Matthew 14:16-18). Jesus could have provided food out of nothing. He chose, however, to use what was brought to Him by His followers. God uses the little that we possess, but He still requires of us that we bring what we have. He will perform miracles and do mighty deeds if we have faith and make ourselves available to Him.
Let’s tie this all together. In His providence, God has chosen to depend on us for the accomplishment of salvation in the world. We come to salvation through the help of others. God works through what is presented to Him by His followers. Christ has given us a mission: to be His presence in the world. To evangelize, to heal, to deliver, to teacher, to serve. If we don’t do these things, they won’t be done.
What does God need from you? We have to remember that without Jesus, we can do nothing (John 15:5). Still, God does not save us without us. He wants our “yes.” He wants us to say “here I am! I come to do Your will.” God can do great things when we make ourselves available to Him. He will gradually shape us, making us more like Him, and enabling us to cooperate more and more in His work for the salvation of the world.
We should ask ourselves, how are we limiting the work of God? Are we selfishly holding back? Are we too caught up in our own interests and desires? Paul complains: “They all look after their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ” (Phil 2:21). What would God do if more people brought their lives and presented them to Him? What could God do if we genuinely accepted the mission He has given us and set ourselves wholeheartedly to follow it?
There is great work to do, now more than ever: “And he said to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest’” (Luke 10:2). We should pray for laborers, but we also need to offer ourselves for the work of the harvest: “And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send me’” (Isaiah 6:8).