We now enter the Easter period and scripture is full of accounts of the early church’s growth in the Spirit of the Risen Christ. Today’s scripture shows us that at the heart of that authentic early church was charity; they shared everything and no one was in need. That’s the model for us too, and so as we begin this mass lets confess any ways we fail to be generous sharers..
There is a story told of a man coming before St. Peter for judgement. “I see you’ve many sins piled up against you”, said Peter, “have you done any good at all in life?”. “Well”, said the man, “I did give a loaf of bread to a poor person some time ago”. On one side of the scales Peter put the man’s sins and on the other the loaf of bread he’d given. Lo and behold, the loaf outweighed all the rest and he was saved. Of course this is just a story but it shows how important charity is in the lives of Christians. As Paul says, it cancels a multitude of our sins. In our first reading we see the early church sharing all they had with those in need. And Christ in our Gospel says that if we love God we should show it by making a special effort to help others. If our brother or sister was starving we’d surely help, but all people are our brothers and sisters in Christ.
And He commands us to love them not just in a notional sense but in a practical way. Yet, and I include myself in this, every day on TV we see images of starving children in Africa and turn away. Are we responsible for them; yes, because we’re partly to blame for their misery, we are our brother’s keeper. When I was in the Philippines I saw that 60% of its GDP went to repaying its debt to western banks. For each euro we give to poor nations we take out 9 in this way. The rich get richer and the poor poorer. Our Trocaire boxes help to right that wrong in some small way.
But our charity should apply at home too. Needy brothers and sisters in Christ are all around us. Giving to Vincent De Paul is one way of helping. But in whatever way we can we should give some of our surplus to the less well off. Indeed, that’s our duty, if the earth is to become God’s just world. Even the people living with us can be needy but we’re too caught up in the world to see. At home we might give more love and time to our family.
But whether at home or in the wider field, we Christians cannot ignore the needs of other. Otherwise Christ may say at the end of time: “depart from me ye cursed into everlasting fire, for I was hungry and you did not give me to eat.. etc”. If Christ came to us for help we’d give freely; but in the voices of the needy he begs us for help every day. “Give to everyone who asks”, he says. I myself find that hard, but if someone asks I always give something. Sure, some take advantage but I can’t deny the Gospel. Its better to err on the side of generosity than be mean. For we’re sons and daughters of a God who is so good to us; “freely, freely you have received, freely give”, the hymn says. Christ gave his last drop of blood for me; I should give to others until it hurts. And like the man who gave the loaf of bread the smallest charity will be rewarded. For the world of which Satan is Lord puts the interests of the rich first, but all that turns to dust and ashes at last and leaves us empty, but Christ is lord of all-caring love, goodness and grace forever and ever, amen.
So as God’s people, reaching out generously to others in love, especially the needy, lets make our profession of faith..
Prayers of the faithful
And as God’s people, we pray with confidence in this glorious time of the Risen Lord for all people’s needs in the Spirit..
For the church throughout the world, especially Our Holy father the Pope and all its leaders, that its sharing charity and concern for the world’s poor may be a light to all nations…
For ourselves that in our homes, communities and country we may have generous, loving and giving hearts to all around us, especially those who most need our care…
For the lonely and the impoverished in mind, body or soul, that through our love and care they may know the care of God the father, and of his all-healing and all-loving Christ..
We pray especially for the sick in our parish that that they may be healed by the dedicated work of those in the medical profession, and our continuing prayers for and outreach to them..
For the dead that through our prayers they may be released from suffering due to sin and come quickly to their heavenly home..
And we ask all these prayer through Christ, the only lord of love, goodness and charity forever and ever, amen.
Sometimes we forget that prayer is a great work of charity. I’m always impressed when people organise prayers sessions for sick people; they show great faith that God will help those people in some way, even if he doesn’t heal them. Christ says that if we ask of God, we will receive, and our Lady of Medugorje says that prayer can bring peace to the world; its mysterious power is beyond all imagining. Prayers for the dead then is a great work of charity, especially when we pray for some one who has no one to pray for them. Scripture says, “its a good and holy thing to pray for the dead, that they may be released from their sins”. Lost in that other world our prayers can, in a mysterious way, bring them to light. The doctrine underlying this belief is the “communion of saints”. The church consists of the living and the dead who can help each other. Our greatest advocate there is Mary; lets ask her for prayerful charitable hearts..Hail Mary