My mother was a great believer in and taught us often that charity begins at home. It was a big ask of five boys to be charitable to each other when all we wanted to do was think and act as boys do. Charity, I would come to discover over time, is something that is a gift from God and a call for each of us.
As St. Thomas Aquinas would describe it, charity is “willing the good of the other.” As a kid or adult, it isn’t always easy to remember to seek first the good of others when we have our own preferences and desires, sometimes very broken desires like self-centeredness and selfishness.
Yet, as Jesus teaches in Matthew’s Gospel, the greatest of all the commandments is: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart … and your neighbor as yourself” (Mt 22:37,39). We must be radically open to being filled with God’s gift of charity, so that we in turn will attain our potential of loving men and women on mission of sharing God’s love.
As Mom taught and held us accountable to charitably love others “at home,” so, too, have I learned over time that God’s call for me and all of us is to love those he has brought into our lives.
Our annual diocesan Catholic Family Sharing Appeal is designed to foster charity to those who are in our very midst as brothers and sisters in Christ. The generous support of parishioners throughout our diocese serves those in various ministries like Catholic education, seminary formation, those in prisons, assistance in technology and accounting services to parishes, college students in our secular colleges through Newman ministry, care for our clergy and so much more.
Only in time was God able to work on my own heart, mind and will to become generous with the gifts he blessed me with. I used to think, “I need my money for myself,” and he eventually was able to prevail upon me that everything I have is his gift to me, and that I am to be a wise and prudent steward of his gifts to foster charity at home and abroad, especially to support Catholic ministries in our diocese and beyond.
It wasn’t until I was a priest that I began to tithe 10 percent of my income for charity. It was only then that I realized the truth that God can never be outdone in charity as I began to experience example after example where I was blessed spiritually and materially with blessings far beyond what I gave to charity.
Eventually, I settled on giving 5 percent of my income to the parish/diocese and 5 percent to various other charities. In doing this, I discovered freedom and a whole new level of detachment from “my money” and discovered the gift of being a steward of God’s gifts to me. Only then did I discover the joy and peace of giving to the parish/diocese/charities I contributed to without expecting something in return.
As we journey through Lent 2024, may our hearts, minds and wills be motivated to ponder on the gift of charity beginning at home and take practical steps to share our gifts with others through our annual Catholic Family Sharing Appeal, our local parish, and other charities that promote God’s love in a world in great need of charity—willing the good of others.