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02/22/2004: "Thoughts on today's Gospel reading"

This is one of my favorite passages from scripture because it calls us to something so remarkably different than what our society calls us to. What particularly comes to mind is our society's idea of charity. Over the years, as a society, we've changed our mindset on our social programs to, in general, require something in return from those who we are helping. As an example, for those who need welfare or unemployment money we insist that they prove not only that they need the money, but that they are doing their best to find a job, or in the case of welfare are working and just can't make ends meet. "There's no free handouts!" we say.

I'm not so sure that is bad for a society, particularly for a secular one where taking advantage of each other is encouraged instead of condemned. But the problem is that we too often associate our societal charity with our Christian charity. Christ calls us to something far larger than that. We give not because our society needs it (and therefore indirectly is for our own benefit) but because it is the Christian thing to do.

It doesn't matter then if the person we give to doesn't need it. It doesn't matter if society will be better off. It doesn't even matter if the person we are giving to will be better off. What matters is that we are sharing in Christian love, with everyone. From my humble perspective, it seems to work because Christian love is infectious.

But in the end, it need not "seem to work" or have any benefit. God calls us to it and He, in his omnipotent state, knows why He has called us to it. We need only follow faithfully, hand over our Tunic and praise Him. That's the radical message today's Gospel calls us to.



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Secondhand Smoke-Wesley Smith
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Mark Shea (On sabatical)

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