Sunday, July 15, 2012

Self-giving love

Yesterday we had the opportunity to bring many of our Marianist high school students to the Bronx and then onto Montebello, New York.  Why go there on such a hot and humid summer day? We set off to do some volunteer work assisting the Sisters of Life move to a new location. We returned renewed, rejoicing, and exhausted.

And work we did. We were all amazed at the quantity of boxes. But our work was for a good cause. 

Our Pope speaks freely about this task of volunteer work. The Pope begins, “your commitment is a reason for confidence, since it shows that goodness exists and that it is growing in our midst. … For Christians, volunteer work is not merely an expression of good will. It is based on a personal experience of Christ”, Whose “grace helps us to discover within ourselves a human desire for solidarity and a fundamental vocation to love. … We also become visible instruments of His love in a world that still profoundly yearns for that love amid the poverty, loneliness, marginalisation and ignorance that we see all around us.

“Of course”, he added, “Catholic volunteer work cannot respond to all these needs, but that does not discourage us. … The little that we manage to do to relieve human needs can be seen as a good seed that will grow and bear much fruit; it is a sign of Christ’s presence and love. … This is the nature of the witness which you, in all humility and conviction, offer to civil society. While it is the duty of public authority to acknowledge and to appreciate this contribution without distorting it, your role as Christians is to take an active part in the life of society, seeking to make it ever more humane, ever more marked by authentic freedom, justice and solidarity."

Benedict XVI went on: “Our meeting today takes place on the liturgical memorial of St. Martin of Tours. Often portrayed sharing his mantle with a poor man, Martin became a model of charity throughout Europe and indeed the whole world. Nowadays, volunteer work as a service of charity has become a universally recognised element of our modern culture. Nonetheless, its origins can still be seen in the particularly Christian concern for safeguarding, without discrimination, the dignity of the human person created in the image and likeness of God. If these spiritual roots are denied or obscured and the criteria of our collaboration become purely utilitarian, what is most distinctive about the service you provide risks being lost, to the detriment of society as a whole."

The Pope concluded his remarks by inviting young people “to discover in volunteer work a way to grow in the self-giving love which gives life its deepest meaning."