Scripture warns us clearly that in the last days, charity will suffer.
Matthew 24:12 “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.” I always considered the imagery of cold hearts as horrible and something I was immune to. I have learned that the warning St. Paul gives about not assuming we are on solid spiritual ground applies to me.
I read this often and never imagined it could happen to me. But it has. My parents imparted many of their wonderful qualities to me. I learned by their example. First, love of God and the Church. Respect for others. A sense of self-respect and self-love, joy and a great sense of humor. And, perhaps, more importantly, love of the poor. My parents are very charitable and they love people and animals and have good hearts.
My Parents Taught Me Charity
Mom and dad always spearheaded our volunteerism, charitable donation collections and many acts of random kindness when my brother and I were kids. My wife and I follow suit feeding and clothing the hungry and reaching out and helping those in need, many times actively seeking out those in trouble.
Lately, I felt myself slipping a bit in my thoughts and my willingness to share my time, talent and treasure. My wife has chided my attitude and promptly ignores me when I tell her that we should cut out all donations. I thank God for her, she keeps me grounded.
Fraud and Corruption Changed My Views
What changed? I believe it is my awareness of the total corruption of every human organization on earth. The fraudulent charities that have been in the news lately coupled with mismanagement of donated funds in prominent corporate charities and the well-publicized welfare fraud got to me. Adding insult to injury are the obscene school taxes for public schools we never used. Living in New Jersey brings with it a heavy real estate tax burden in large part because of corrupt politicians and public unions. Everyone appears to be on the take, except me. That’s how I was viewing it.
Fifteen Hour Work Days
I have a 15-hour workday. When I watch people who are recipients of the fruits of my labor protesting and complaining on the nightly news it infuriates me. Large groups of diverse people from diverse backgrounds with hands out demanding entitlements they never earned is galling. Politicians are using our social security safety net to fund their social programs for votes. Some politicians call social security an entitlement. In one sense it is exactly that. Are we not entitled to our own money that we worked for? They threaten reductions and extended retirement times. Meanwhile, they are set with fat pensions and a subsidized health plan for life. They pass entitlement programs to garner votes. Some of the entitlements are ridiculous. In NYC, those that qualify get subsidized money for food but can use it for booze and tobacco. Subsidized housing which is supposed to be temporary lasts for generations. Those that qualify are provided with free cell phones and free internet. They give nothing in return. Workfare was dismantled under Obama. Nothing hardens hearts like ungrateful people gaming a corrupt system.
Madonna House and Good Counsel
There are legitimate reasons people need subsidies, however, the main factor for poverty is illegitimate children. Single moms make up the biggest group of poverty-stricken Americans. Oddly enough my ire is not directed against them. In a weird way, I view them as heroes because they chose life. My wife and I support two Catholic Organizations in New Jersey that assist these young moms and their babies. Madonna House and Good Counsel. Chris Bell of Good Counsel is a saint in my book. The folks who dedicate their lives serving these people have hearts of gold. I don’t condone those who make a living out of having illegitimate kids and my ire is directed at that group with four or five or seven kids with as many baby daddies as well as the able-bodied idlers.
I’m not alone in my feelings. The recent election reflected the frustration and the hardening of hearts of so many people for so many reasons, but I think corruption in Washington was number one. Politicians are bought and paid for by lobbyists. They are traitors to the people who elected them. Politicians who sell out their constituents need to be voted out. The powers that be create situations designed to trick the people that they can not be trusted to think on their own. They want us to think we need a ruling class. A government that influences how we think, work and live. A government we just can’t live without. As believers, we know that our trust is in Jesus. We the people knew that. Our national motto proclaims it. It is on our money, ” In God we trust”, so what happened? The answer to that question would take up too much space here. Suffice it to say, we need to know love and serve God. Our hearts will be restless until they rest in God. Same for the whole world.
Let Our Light Shine Before Men
Because of wickedness, the hearts of many will wax cold. The imagery of a cold, unlit candle comes to mind. It is a horrible scary image when applied to the human heart. A dead heart in the chest of believers is an abomination. Cold and dead, devoid of God and love. Scrooge-like. The Gospel tells us we are the light of the world. It reminds us not to hide our light under a bushel basket. Tongues of fire appeared above the heads of believers on Pentecost. The Scriptures tell us to let our light shine among men so they will give glory to God. Allowing my heart to wax cold is dishonoring God, my parents and my very profession of faith. Cold hearts lack fire, passion, and love. My recent attempts to reach out in various ministries in and beyond my home parish did not bear fruit. After being thwarted several times I was resigned to retreat, give up and just worry about number one. But God is not one to give up easily. Like a gentle breeze, He keeps reminding me through His Word. Over and over again Matthew’s prediction gently invades my thoughts. The hearts of many will wax cold. It convicts, shames, encourages and saddens me all at once.
A Change Hearts
This past week due to timing issues, we assisted at Mass at a neighboring parish. The elderly priest always gives thoughtful, encouraging homilies which I really enjoy. His homilies provide me with meditations for the week. He always brings to light personal shortcomings in himself or positive achievements and asks questions which only we can answer. They are sometimes provocative but always thought-provoking. I love this little country church and really enjoy going to mass there. As we exited our vehicle we noticed many people bringing in doughnuts and breakfast treats. We were greeted with smiles and handshakes by people we never met before and then I noticed the sign. Parish Ministry Day. All through mass, I felt the inspiration to go and see. Was my heart really waxed cold? That good priest encouraged the congregation to investigate some of the ministries. He invited us to get involved. Was I going to just walk away from letting my light shine? Nope.
As I walked in I was greeted by a neighbor who left my home parish to join this parish. He welcomed me, introduced me to another guy and told me about all the good things the Knights of Columbus in their parish are doing. They invited me to join. I signed up. I hope to get involved helping the local poor and those who need help. I’m sure they will do more ministering to me than I will do for them.
Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged
As a Franciscan and a Catholic, we are instructed not to judge who is worthy or not worthy of charity. Charity simply means love and love is the greatest gift of all according to Scripture. When I judge worthiness, I judge myself. When I withhold charity, I do harm to myself. It all ties in with the Lord’s Prayer. “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” I do not want the Lord to remind me of that line when I stand before Him on judgment day.
Prayer For Personal Renewal
So my prayer for a renewed spirit of charity is: Father forgive me for offending You in so many ways. Lord, let me always remember my mission as Your emissary. Thank You, Lord, for everything You have given me. Strengthen my resolve to never let my heart wax cold no matter the increase in worldly wickedness. Fill me with the Fire of Your Spirit and increase Your gift of charity in me. Grant me wisdom to know and do Your will and to serve Your people all the days of my life. All my love, praise and adoration belong to You Lord. Thank you. Amen