I think the most common limitation put on Charity is that it is merely some kind of aid given to those less fortunate than ourselves. This is a great understatement of what is truly possible and truly required by faith in Jesus Christ. I was struck in a podcast recently where a line from Pope Benedict XVI 's encyclical DEUS CARITAS EST was quoted. It reads:
"For the Church, charity is not a kind of welfare activity which could equally well be left to others, but is a part of her nature, an indispensable expression of her very being." (DCE paragraph 25)
As Catholic Christians, this statement should strike us to the core, and hopefully then strike a chord in us moving towards action and conversion.
Charity goes so much deeper than the surface for us who believe and profess faith in the One True God and His Church. Charity is not a program we sign up for, a trip we go on or a check we sign. Charity is built in to our DNA as Catholics, and this is no small matter. And so, we must ask ourselves why we take pride in the many charitable works the Church performs or in the effort we make to go out and provide some service for those in need. This pride is only from ourselves and not of the Lord. James tells us in the New Testament that "Whoever knows what is right to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin." (Js 4:17) We ought not take pride in something that is demanded of us. For doing what we should do is the only proper response.
So for us, it is not a matter of going out of ourselves to do the good, but recognizing that the call to charity is within our very soul and called out of us by Christ Himself.
Father Paul has said many times, even an atheist can do good deeds, but the difference for us as Catholics is that we have been CALLED to do these good deeds. It is a part of who we have been claimed to be.
May they know we are Christians by our Charity. I pray that you will sit with these quotes and scriptures and look at what the charity of your day to day life is. Charity is not a week at the mission trip but a reality that must permeate our very nature as human persons claimed for Christ.
Charity is the lifestyle of the Saints. May we strive this Lent and always to join their heavenly ranks one day to sing the praises of the One who Was and Is and Is to come for all eternity.
-Jesse Saltarelli / Director of Youth Ministry / email@example.com / 716-909-0208