It is a word laden with baggage, such as past experiences and cliches. Images of food drives and used clothing collections come to mind. Charity is giving stuff to those in need. Charity is helping those in obvious need: the downtrodden, the suffering, the poor.
This past weekend we were faced with a challenging Gospel: Luke 6:27-38. Jesus told us to love your enemies… do good to those who hate you... do not judge, and you will not be judged.
This is tough stuff. It is easy to sort through my closet, choose clothes I infrequently wear, and put them in a bag for “charity”. It is easier still to look in my cupboard and pick out a few cans of food I do not need or want, and donate them to “charity”. Charity becomes something distant, something removed.
What is hard, is to “Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate.” This is true charity. This is difficult work. Which is why I am grateful that we have help and guidance from our Church. The Office of Readings is rife with wonderful readings, advice, reflections and more. On this Sunday the second reading came from Saint Maximus the Confessor, abbot. Simply titled: Without love, everything is in vain.
Charity is a right attitude of mind… the whole set and longing of his mind is ever directed towards him [God]...
The man who does not love his neighbor does not obey God’s command…
A charitable mind is not displayed simply in giving money; it is manifested still more by personal service…
Faith must be joined to an active love of God which is expressed in good works. The charitable man is distinguished by sincere and long-suffering service to his fellow man. (Centuria 1, cap 1, 4-5.16-17. 23-24. 26-28. 30-40: PG 90, 962-967)
These words and phrases convict and inspire me. Who is my neighbor? Those closest to me. It is the people I work work with and interact with daily. It is students, teachers, parents, and friends.
How can I serve them? How can I show them real charity? How can I offer true “sincere and long-suffering service”? I pray to God that I can work towards this “right attitude of mind”. I pray I may see ways to show “personal service” and “an active love of God” to my neighbors.
Most challenging, this is “expressed in good works… long-suffering service”. May I have the courage and energy to fulfill these words of St. Maximus. May I do the hard work that goes beyond traditional ideas of “charity”. May I truly love my neighbors. As my pastor Fr. Brian reminded us in his homily on Sunday, this is only possible through God. His love, working through us, is the only way to live out His commands.
Most Sincerely in Christ,
Amy Sansone, Academic Dean