Sunday, September 29, 2013

Charity is an Obligation

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

Seeing the rich man go to hell, many people are inclined to ask: “What wrong has he done?” “What sin did he commit?”Apparently, he did not seem to do anything wrong. He did not commit any crime. He did not steal. There was no sign that his wealth was ill-gotten. The Lord described him as “a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day.” So he liked to wear fine clothes – is there anything wrong with this? He liked to eat sumptuously – nothing wrong to this, so it seems. But why did he end in hell?

Although he had the right to enjoy his presumably honestly earned wealth, the presence of the poor man Lazarus at his door puts a limitation to that right. The presence of Lazarus imposed upon the rich man the obligation of charity. That’s right – charity is an obligation. It is not an option that we can easily discard when we are not disposed towards it. Charity is an obligation because it is a commandment. Remember the two greatest commandments? “Love God” and “Love your neighbor” are commandments. In fact they are the greatest of all commandments. And being commandments, these impose upon us an obligation to come to the aid of the needy.

We live in a time of great indifference. We are accustomed to observe the “mind your own business” rule. Is this not the way we treasure our individual privacy? My problems are mine and they are none of your business. You problems are yours and they are none of my business. I earn my living fair and square and I have a right to do with my earnings as I please. But this indifference is dangerous as the Prophet Amos condemns such complacency: “Woe to the complacent in Zion. Lying upon beds of ivory, stretched comfortably on their couches, they eat…they drink wine…and anoint themselves with the best oils; yet they are not made ill by the collapse of Joseph.” To enjoy one’s earnings is not evil but to do so while remaining indifferent to the sufferings of your fellowmen is evil. Evil does not only entail doing what is bad. It also means refusing to do what is good when I can afford to do so. Of course, we cannot solve the problem of world hunger or poverty in an instant. We can do so by feeding one hungry person at a time. Hunger and poverty will never be solved unless each of us undergoes a conversion of heart and live charity as a lifestyle.

I was homeless and you welcomed me:
Evacuation in the Parish Church during the time of Habagat.
Thanks to Fr. Aris Sison for the Photo
“The Year of Faith will also be a good opportunity to intensify the witness of charity. As St. Paul reminds us: ‘So faith, hope and love abide, these three; but the greatest of this is love.’ With even stronger words, - which have always placed Christians under obligation – St. James said: ‘What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? 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…” Faith without charity bears no fruit, while charity without faith would be a sentiment constantly at the mercy of doubt. Faith and charity each require the other, in such a way that each allows the other to set out along its respective path. Indeed, many Christians dedicate their lives with love to those who are lonely, marginalized or excluded, as those who are the first with the claim on our attention and the most important for us to support, because it is in them that the reflection of Christ’s own face is seen. Through faith, we can recognize the face of the risen Lord in those who ask for our love. ‘As you did it to one of the least of my brethren, you did it to me.’ These words are a warning that must not be forgotten and a perennial invitation to return the love by which he takes care of us. It is faith that enables us to recognize Christ and it is love that impels us to assist him whenever he becomes our neighbor along the journey of life. Supported by faith, let us look with hope at our commitment in the world, as we await ‘new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.’” (Benedict XVI, Porta Fidei, 14.)

Jesus, I trust in you. O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

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