From its very beginning the Church has nourished a strong understanding of responsibility for the poor and for the evangelization of all. “All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one’s needs” (Acts 2:46).
For several weeks at the end of summer and the beginning of autumn you and I experienced the dramatic situation of our brothers and sisters in Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Puerto Rico and various small islands in the Caribbean.
In the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, the government does not have a protocol for second collections, but rather allows the priest, having consulted his Catholic community council and the ranking base chaplain, to designate a collection (which will be the only one that day) for a specific purpose. The devastation caused by these recent natural calamities led me to request designated offerings three times. The faithful on military installations responded generously.
Of course, some of them responded in another way as well. Soldiers and sailors were sent to Puerto Rico to help the residents in removing debris, setting up emergency systems for power and communication, and assuring emergency assistance in health care on the USS Comfort. While those efforts were funded by the federal government, we do not forget that these men and women who were sent to Puerto Rico were separated unexpectedly from family, home and routine. Once again they fulfilled their duty and we can rejoice in that commitment.
You and I have frequent opportunities to practice what the Lord calls the great commandment. Love of God and love of neighbor are inseparable. “…for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1Jn. 4:20b). There are so many concrete ways to fulfill the demands of that commandment. Gradually, as we deepen our relationship with the Lord, the response to the needs of others becomes almost second nature.
The difference between a merely humanitarian concern for others and that inspired by our faith is that you and I want to see Jesus just like a host of others in the New Testament period. He tells us that such a meeting is not difficult. In the Gospel of St. Matthew (chapter 25) the Lord Jesus tells us very clearly that we meet Him in those who are in need of us. The corporal and spiritual works of mercy allow us to see Jesus in the hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, imprisoned and so forth. That charity is at the reach of everyone and it is coupled with our commitment to evangelize. It will be the matter for our judgment at the end of our earthly pilgrimage.
Even in her mid-80s, my late mother used to take meals on wheels to shut-ins. She only stopped when lifting the trays was beyond her physical strength. Who has not been moved by the sight of a Little Sister of the Poor or a Missionary of Charity meeting the needs of those unable to help themselves? How can we miss the faith in action on the part of a volunteer helping an inner-city child with her homework at one of our Catholic schools? The examples are endless and they inspire us in our commitment to others.
The witness of faith in action also describes that host of volunteers who assure religious education in countless CCD programs, RCIA, and adult education. It is true that these opportunities are a fundamental expression of what the Second Vatican Council stressed in its description of the laity as the leaven that permeates contemporary society with the richness of the Gospel. In 40 years of priestly ministry, I have seen so many examples of those whose faith is lived out in concrete situations. Despite the pressure of frequent moves and constant transition, military faith communities are no exception. Indeed, the commitment of others spurs our commitment and enriches our response. That is how the Gospel has always been spread and we give thanks.
ARCHBISHOP TIMOTHY P. BROGLIO, veteran Vatican diplomat and canon lawyer, took the helm of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA (AMS) in Jan. 2008, a global archdiocese serving 1.8 million Catholics worldwide. Learn more about the AMS at milarch.org.