In the post-modern world, we hear a lot about love, equality, justice, and tolerance. We all want to do what is right, but I think we often end up getting things wrapped up, confused and intermingled with politics, a particular agenda, or ideology. There are even people who talk much about social justice, caring for the poor and how we should be attentive to the forgotten; however, most of that just remain as words or policies that do not really motivate the heart and challenge the individuals to serve their neighbors. It is very easy to be like Judas Iscariot who talked much about the poor but was unaffected nor moved to personally serve and care for those who are in need with real actions and deeds. He talked the talk but never walked or committed himself to the real service and care of those around him. Perhaps we, ourselves, have seen people who are similar to him in our very own lives as well!
First of all, I would like to say that I have seen too many people expecting the government to be benevolent and takes care of works of charity on behalf of its citizens. Yet, the problems there, not including possible corruptions and unnecessary red-tape hoops, is that too many remain unaffected, uncommitted, or uninterested in the real care of their neighbors. For those who have personally been involved with any charitable organization or project, we know too well that the cracks in government-based policies are too big, politics are just too vocal but ineffective, and too many people remain vulnerable, forgotten, abandoned, and continue to fall through the cracks and live on the fringes of our society. On top of that, we have seen more and more people becoming indifferent to the sufferings of their neighbors and those who are in their own community because they think it is not their duty to care, since it is ultimately the government’s jobs and there are plenty of subsidized and welfare programs available for “those people” if they just look hard enough. The danger of indifference and isolation are so real as we and others around us become more self-centered, only worrying about our own problems and struggles but blinded to those who are around us.
We are called to care for one another in a tangible and personal way, not just political wordings and policies. When we stop putting into practice the Lord‘s commandments, the power of the Good News becomes ineffective when it becomes normal, old, and boring news like others. We can only give witness to this tangible love of God by how we care for one another! This genuine and personal testimony will make an impression with those who personally encountered it because what we have received in worship is enlivened in our everyday interactions. Christians, in the midst of many creative tensions and imperfections, need to remember that our faith is grounded in the saving work of Christ. When our love is united with our love for Him, we are personally and communally motivated to live in radical charity. Why? Because this charitable love is the only one that is genuine because it is self-giving and self-sacrificial. Love is the secret to true joy because we dare to embrace and live out what others do not want or desire because they oftentimes see the commandments of the Lord as an impediment to their freedom.
It is truly sad when we live in a very day and age when we talk much about love but do not know what it means. All seem to want love and be loved, but that word often becomes a meaningless and confusing word to be thrown out in conversation! That is why real works of mercy remind us that love has to be enlivened and put into practice. In the time and age when many people think that they are good enough if they push a button to donate to a good cause sometimes, not break the law, and be nice to be people around them, we understand that we have to more than simple action-based, feel-good things that are personally uncommitted. We are often stuck in the “good enough” mentality, piously refusing to judge anyone else’s behavior as to escape from being judged ourselves, but dismissing many obvious problems that are affecting those who are around us. We ultimately think that it is best to remain silent or keep things personal and subjective, as long as nobody gets hurt, is the best solution for an opinionated and politicalized world, but we have allowed ourselves to lose sight of truth and the mission given to us by the Savior. When many think that the government or public authorities are responsible for benevolent acts, or we only do good things out of peer pressure, social guilt, or if we need to feel good about ourselves, the true gift of self-sacrificial love reminds us that Christian love is tangible, personal, and Christ-centered.
We engage in charitable works, especially with those who are forgotten, abandoned, and living on the fringes of society in imitation of the Lord‘s own ministry and salvific love. We love those who are around us as living, unique, unrepeatable images of God‘s own love. Therefore, when we choose to personally love, our words and actions make the Almighty‘s love present again in this world through us, hence to remind ourselves and everyone around us that this world is worth saving, and the people, worth loving. Furthermore, when we are truly grounded in the love of God, we are able to make constructive criticisms of our culture when it goes astray. We do not become worldly nor abandon and retire from the world. We do not isolate ourselves in our own ghettos or enclaves. We are able to judge all things and lovingly call people back to the truth in the theocentric way of life.
When we live in the love of God, we are able to become faithfully creative, taking elements from the wider society, sanctify them with the new spirit and way of life, Christianized them to effectively evangelize and preach the Good News. Nevertheless, we also have to recognize that not all will like our way of life. We still remain the most persecuted and harassed religious community in the world. Even though many share Christian values and the ethos built up by the Church, she is still hated by many. Yet, no matter what, we are called to love all, even the people who are persecuting and harassing us. This genuine and radical love makes no sense apart from the One who loves us. Without a doubt, our Christian faith reminds us that love has the power to turn ordinary people into heroes.
We are called to proclaim the Gospel and live it with our very own lives. This is our mission and purpose because it is our Christian discipleship and responsibility to proclaim what many need to hear. Even though many will not accept what we have to say because it will challenge them to go beyond the comfort zone they have created for themselves, when our lives are eucharistic — to be thankful and genuine with the great loving gift received from the Savior — the Eucharist becomes both the source of strength and purpose-filled map that form and guide us toward the One who truly loves. When we fully live out our Christian vocation and discipleship, we become the life-giving energy and soul of this cynical, lifeless, and loveless world. Ironically, when we choose to be intentional disciples, we become both the resentful reality and firm conscience of our world.
In how we carry out the natural and corporal works of mercy in feeding the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, give alms to the poor, shelter the homeless, care for the sick, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead, this world is reminded of true compassion and mercy that is enlivened and in action. Also, we also are able to lovingly serve those around us by how we humbly care for the spiritual goods and welfare of those around us by instructing the ignorant of the truth, counsel the doubtful in their troubled times, admonish the sinner when they have strayed away, forgive those who have done wrong against us, comfort the sorrowful, bear wrongs patiently, praying for the living and the dead. The corporal and spiritual works of mercy are all concrete, heart-felt, theocentric, and Gospel-centered teachings put into actions! If we really want this world to be more loving, equal, just, and tolerable, we have to live what the Gospel teaches us in radical terms. In the end, we are not simply radical revolutionaries in political terms, but radically loving and caring for one another in Christ Jesus. Therefore, let us dare to love and carry it out with personal, practical, and loving works of mercy.