03 October 2022

Love cannot be outsourced

27th Week OT (M)

Fr. Philip Neri Powell OP
St. Albert the Great, Irving

Christian charity – agape – cannot be outsourced to an agency, a bureaucracy, or a corporation. Jesus never commands us to love God and one another through the machinations of gov't committees, commissions, or councils. Agape is one-on-one, hands-on, person-to-person love. The loved and the lover then move on to another in need and love him/her into Christ and then that one joins them to move on to love yet another. We might involve a third-party – like the innkeeper – to help with the basic physical needs of someone in trouble but the loving part of their care is up to us. Now, of course, the innkeeper himself could care for the troubled soul out of love. And that becomes another agape relationship. The point of all these agape relationships is not the relief of material poverty or the healing of wounds. Material poverty is relieved and wounds are healed – and that's all to the good and should be done! But the point – the end goal, the telos – of Christian charity must always and only be to give glory of God. During the Antonine and Cyprian plagues of the 2nd and 3rd c in the Roman Empire, the Church flourished b/c Christians were willing to do what the gov't wouldn't – take care of the sick and dying. Their witness turned the tide of gov't persecution, giving the Church her first taste of credibility and respectability. Over the centuries, hospitals, orphanages, hostels, universities, convalescent homes, and scientific institutions followed – all inventions of the Church, established to give glory to God. PF has warned us that the Church can never merely be an NGO, a non-governmental organization, an international agency that sets aside the supernatural work of agape for the salvation of souls for the secular goal of “doing good.” Christian charity is done so that others may see the glory of God at work in my work. Done right, others don't see me at all. But God alone. They see Christ and come to see Christ being perfected in themselves. Are the massive relief efforts of large NGO's more efficient? Sure. But no where does Jesus claim that the Way, the Truth, and the Life is efficient. Or more productive of immediate results. Or better at logistics or management. He simply claims that he is the only Way to the Father. No bureaucracy ever created has the paperwork for that kind of sacrificial love. 

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