FOUNDATIONS OF CHARITABLE SERVICES
(Saturday, August 1, 2020)
Taking inspiration from the Sacred Scriptures and the Christian Tradition, down through the centuries, numerous forms of charitable services sprung up across the globe. Over the centuries, the Christian charitable actions became more and more organized and stabilized with the creation of institutional structures to manage them effectively and efficiently. However, with the onset of trend of becoming professional organisation, the true essence of weaving people together as one community is slowly dwindling and more sporadic offshoot of such communities are seen but not as a wave of transformed collective communities. The Acts of the Apostles have shown how charity was central to the life of the first Christian communities. They shared all they had. “All who believed were together and had all things in common; and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need” (Acts 2:44-45). In contrast, what we see in the modern world is the manifestation of individualistic persuasion, perspectives and ideology driven by the neoliberal capitalist framework, where profit and one’s personal gains at all cost is the hallmark of progress and development though there are few who do follow the principles of charity .
Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (1 Timothy 5:8) We should first concentrate on being charitable to our own, whether that be our own immediate families, friends, neighbours, or country. To ignore our own and run to the aid of others was considered to be both a betrayal and an infidelity. In 1 Timothy 5:4, where Paul tells Timothy to make sure the widows are taken care of by their own families first, before calling on the church. Charity and fulfilment of requirement are something that should be started at our home, which includes family, friends & neighbours. If anyone has the intention to help someone, they should search for them nearby first. The actual meaning of ‘Charity Begins at Home’ is to help people from our families and friends after considering everyone as our own. Feeling their pain like our own will enhance our emotional attachment behind making charity. Hence, we are called to treat the world as home and begins our charity work.
2.0 THE TRUEST MODEL OF THE CHARITY
The truest model of the charity is and ever remains to be the inspirational Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37)–a genuine call for care and service to the person in need whom one meets here and now. Caring and loving service to the poor lies at the heart of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who says: “Blessed are the poor” (Luke 6:20). In Mark 10:43-45 Jesus says, “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For, the Son of man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many”. Hence, the call to Christian discipleship is essentially a call to humble service to one’s fellow beings. The acts of charity such as giving bread to the hungry, water to the thirsty and clothes to the naked, home to the homeless, assisting the sick and the suffering, the poor, the widows, the orphans, the migrants etc. are the concrete actions of compassion and mercy in showing love to one’s sisters and brothers in Christ. These are the very actions which testify a person to be a disciple of Jesus Christ in this world.
3.0 THE SOURCE OF SPIRITUALITY
The source of spirituality is the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, His actions, His words, His very person, who went about doing good, healing the sick, returning sight to the blind and proclaiming the Good News of Salvation, revealing to us the infinite love of His Father. During the celebration of the Last Supper just prior to his Passion, Jesus gave his body and blood to the disciples and established the Holy Eucharistic Sacrament. Jesus says, “Do this in memory of me.” When we take his body and drink his blood, we are not only remembering the final meal he shared with his disciples before his Passion, we are remembering all that he was/is and all that he did.
In the early Church, charitable activity was linked to the celebration of the Eucharist, listening to the teachings of the Apostles, gathering for prayers, breaking of bread and caring for each other’s material needs proved to be the unifying bonding of the Christian communities to remain one in heart and one in mind and thus becoming one Body of Christ. The Apostle Paul, whose life and ministry was dedicated to building Christian communities, put the service of charity at the centre of his teachings, calling for “collection for God’s holy people” (1Corinthians 16:1-2). St. James powerfully reminded the early Christian believers that “if a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, go in peace, be warmed and filled, without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead” (St. James 2:15-17). Thus, the truest expression of faith in Jesus Christ is incomplete if it is not accompanied by charity/good works towards one’s needy sisters and brothers in Christ.
In Matthew 25:40, in the context of Last Judgement, Jesus says, “I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers (sisters) of mine, you did for me.” It is on this basis of one’s willingness to reach out in service to the poor and needy that one is judged on the last judgement day. Jesus delivered His longest sermon called “The Sermon on the Mount,” and He began by delineating the different categories of blessed people. (Matthew 5:3-12) Each of the Beatitudes includes not only a statement about who is blessed, but also a short description of what is in store for each category of those who are blessed. In contrast, the message of Jesus is one of humility, charity, and brotherly love. He teaches transformation of the inner self. Jesus presents the Beatitudes in a positive sense, virtues in life which will ultimately lead to reward. Love becomes the motivation for the Christian. All the Beatitudes have an eschatological meaning, that is, they promise us salvation – not in this world, but in the world to come.
Remember when St. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:22 that he was willing to “become all things to all men in order to save some” He was reminding us that our strategy for evangelism must be connected to our awareness of context, meaning understanding the real time situation- community deepest hopes and fears, strength and weaknesses and real-time shared experiences of its people. Increased mobility and the digital culture have expanded the confines of existence. On the one hand, people are less associated today with a definite and immutable geographical context, living instead in “a global and pluralist village”; on the other hand, the digital culture has inevitably altered the concept of space, together with people’s language and behaviour, especially in younger generations. How are we going to alter or tailor our approach to the communities of the new generation and the changes and nuances that has been ushered into the current time and heightened by the new normal created by the coronavirus pandemic including the huge reverse exodus. Today our most pervasive fallacy of ministry thinking goes back to a neglect of context. And that there is a need to understand current context in our Social Apostolate and Diakonia Ministry to achieve the desired results. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus shows us the Way. The parables of “the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13) and “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14) reflect the essence of what it means to follow the footsteps of Christ. Christian charity primarily is a powerful and vivid response and witness originating from one’s love of neighbour enshrined in one’s Christian Faith. Hence, Christian Charity is more of an inwardly spiritual force than a mere external show for its own end goal (Matthew 6:2-4).