Freely You Have Received, So Freely You Shall Give

The Holy Father met with European volunteer workers on Friday. The meeting was organized by the Vatican dicastery that organizes the Pope’s charitable activities, the Pontifical Council Cor Unum (one heart).

Pope Benedict expressed his gratitude for the work that they do, then went on to give both a reflection and instruction on the need for Catholics to give of themselves freely, as Christ gave Himself freely for the good of all:

“… At the present time, marked as it is by crisis and uncertainty, your commitment is a reason for confidence, since it shows that goodness exists and that it is growing in our midst. The faith of all Catholics is surely strengthened when they see the good that is being done in the name of Christ (cf. Philem 6).

For Christians, volunteer work is not merely an expression of good will. It is based on a personal experience of Christ. He was the first to serve humanity, he freely gave his life for the good of all. That gift was not based on our merits. From this we learn that God gives us himself. More than that: Deus Caritas est – God is love, to quote a phrase from the First Letter of Saint John (4:8) which I employed as the title of my first Encyclical Letter. The experience of God’s generous love challenges us and liberates us to adopt the same attitude towards our brothers and sisters: “You received with paying, give without pay” (Mt 10:8). We experience this especially in the Eucharist when the Son of God, in the breaking of bread, brings together the vertical dimension of his divine gift with the horizontal dimension of our service to our brothers and sisters.

Christ’s grace helps us to discover within ourselves a human desire for solidarity and a fundamental vocation to love. His grace perfects, strengthens and elevates that vocation and enables us to serve others without reward, satisfaction or any recompense. Here we see something of the grandeur of our human calling: to serve others with the same freedom and generosity which characterizes God himself. We also become visible instruments of his love in a world that still profoundly yearns for that love amid the poverty, loneliness, marginalization and ignorance that we see all around us.”

You can read the rest here.

A vocation of love. Is that not the foundation for all life-style vocations – married, religious, consecrated virgin, priest?  In the same way Pope John Paul II wrote that the Gospel of Life was a Gospel of Love. The Gospel of God’s love for man, the Gospel of the dignity of the person and the Gospel of life are a single and indivisible Gospel. (EV #2).

I am reminded of a favorite quote of mine, from the movie Pearl Harbor, “nothing is stronger than the heart of a volunteer.”

My point in this is to stress how much the world needs Christians to step up to the plate and get involved. Parishes, in many instances,  are languishing because of a lack of volunteers. Ministries chug along with a skeleton crew, or they don’t exist at all because no one is taking up the mantle of service. Secular social organizations might not be at such odds with the dignity of the human being (and Church teaching)  if they were staffed by hearts that knew the Gospel.

Freely you have received….

We are, at the heart of it all, consumers. Consumers of His precious Salvation. Consumers of His Body and Blood. Fed daily, even if simply by the opportunity to awake and rise again. But if all we do is consume, we become fat. Let’s face it – the Body of Christ is fat and out of shape.

Freely you shall give….

We need to also be producers of  actions that lift the burdens of another, truth-bearers to those who have been raised by the father of lies, workers in the field, both inside the Church and outside. Exercising our faith, we become more fit for action, stronger and able to live out our role as the Church militant. Against what does the Church militant fight?: For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. (Eph. 6:12)

The harvest is ripe, but the laborers are few….

The pro-life movement needs more people to get on board – first by prayer. When we lean our hearts to God, He leans His to us. And guess what? He has something to say in response to our pleas for change, for action in our world today. Often times it is a word to get involved, join up. Do Something. That ‘something’ will always respect our state in life and vocation, but it will also likely feel like we’re being stretched. In other words, it may not be the easiest or most logical duty (at least initially, in our own minds), but His grace will be sufficient to accomplish that which He calls us to and grow us at the same time. Transformation. Then we will be living a vocation of love.

For the love of Christ controls us, because we are convinced that one has died for all, therefore all have died. And he died for all that those who live might live no longer for themselves but for him, who for their sake died and was raised. (2 Cor 5:14-15).

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