Faith: What the world needs now
“What the World Needs Now is Love” was a song that was almost never recorded. Hal David wrestled with the lyrics for more than two years. Burt Bacharach composed the music, but both were disenchanted with the result.
Eventually the song was recorded and released on April 15, 1965. To the surprise of David and Bacharach, the song became a hit and has since been recorded by more than 100 other singers, appeared in more than 200 films and TV shows, and played about 2 million times on the radio.
“What the World Needs Now” seems to tap into something prophetic, or deeply insightful about our human heart. But almost 2,000 years before that song (and others like it), this wisdom about love was first on the lips of Jesus Christ - and it’s a truth for us in the days ahead.
In Chapter 22 of Matthew’s Gospel, “a scholar of the law” attempts to test Jesus by asking him which of the 613 commandments of the Old Testament was the greatest, hoping Jesus would give a silly answer that would discredit his ministry. Instead, Jesus gives the twin commandments to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” and to “love your neighbor as yourself.”
Using the second person singular “you,” Jesus peers into this man’s heart and speaks the commandments right to him, to the place where he wasn’t loving God or neighbor. But he’s not alone. We all share something with this lawyer that Jesus was trying to heal: a wound in the ability to love.
Rewind back to the first book of the Bible. Genesis chapters 1 and 2 describe God’s creation of the world and mankind. God called the creation of our species “very good,” and we were created in God’s “image and likeness” with a mind that can think and a heart that can choose (free will).
But then we read the tragedy of Genesis Chapter 3: Our first parents, Adam and Eve, “ate the proverbial fruit” of the forbidden tree of knowledge of good and evil, and “their eyes were opened.” Unpacking the symbolism, this means that they used their free will to disobey God’s instructions and instead they tried to choose their own path for happiness, resulting in “knowledge of evil” or the experience of disobeying God.
Contrary to what some say, this was not an advancement in maturity for Adam and Eve (and our entire race), and it resulted in a loss of incredible gifts for us all and a four-fold rupture (within ourselves, with God, with others, and with creation) that we all experience to this day.
The result was also a mind that cannot think as clearly and a heart that cannot choose as strongly. We need a clear mind and a strong heart to love well - hence this choice of Adam and Eve was an especially tragic blow our race’s ability to love. Simply look around at our social, economic and political climate today; we are not loving God or neighbor as we should.
But God had a rescue mission. He’s too good to leave our race in the mire of sin. In the fullness of time, God himself - Jesus Christ - became a real human being to show us authentic love, and at the cost of his own life. Jesus shows us how to truly “will the good of the other” and commands his followers (like the lawyer) to do the same.
But knowing our weakness, Jesus did even more: He also gives us the superpowers that our hearts and minds need to be able to love more truly and deeply. Only by drawing closer to Jesus Christ and receiving his goodness and love are we able to live goodness and love ourselves.
Put another way: If we are not receiving and bringing God’s divine love to the world, we are only bringing our broken selves - and that’s simply not enough, especially in these trying times.
The invite is this: If you’re concerned about our country and world - be part of the solution. Now more than ever, draw close to Jesus Christ through reading the Bible, taking time to pray, gathering with others to intercede, frequenting the sacraments if your church has them, and fasting for others’ conversion as Jesus instructed.
It’s the only solution that will work in this world - and for eternity.
Indeed, what the world needs now is love - God’s divine love!
Father Timothy Lange is pastor at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Hackensack and St. Agnes Catholic Church in Walker.