Speaking of charity...judge not?

Most of us have the occasional opportunity to toss a dollar or ten to some hard-on-his-luck person standing on the side of the road, holding a sign indicating that he's homeless, out of work, or whatever. Sometimes, it's a little more close-up than that: someone we pass on the street, or outside of a church or (oh, my, the worst!) outside of a liquor store. Despite what would seem to be some pretty clear-cut indications from Jesus, there are many who think that one should not give money to the person asking for charity. The protests usually take some form of the argument "They're just going to use it to buy booze; they won't really benefit from it."

Could this be one of the things Jesus was talking about when he said "Judge not, lest ye be judged."? We've all used the "judge not" cop-out when it comes to someone who's actually doing something wrong. When understood correctly, we are even right to do so. After all, while we can call the act wrong, we can't know what's in the person's heart; therefore, we should not presume to judge that the person is beyond redemption. In the case of someone asking for charity, however, we seem to throw that out the window. We haven't even seen them do something wrong, yet we're so ready to judge that they're going to do something wrong if we share our own good fortune with them.

What if Jesus took that same approach to His completely gratuitious gift of redemption through the Cross? What if He said (of the human race), "Hey, most of them aren't going to make proper use of my gift, anyway, so I'll wait until I have something they're going to use."? But he didn't do that. Instead, he died on the Cross for every one of us, shouldering the burden of every one of our sins; furthermore, He did so irrespective of whether any one of us would actually accept that gift of redemption--a judgment that He could have formed because He actually knows who will be saved and who won't.

Maybe we should think about that whenever we're tempted to withold charity from an individual because we don't think he'll use it for something on our approved list of poor-person purchases.

Encountering Jesus - The Reflexive Property of Charity

I was listening to Peggy Stanton interview Patrick and Judith Jones this past weekend. During the interview, Peggy tried to get Judith, who is the DRE at St. Paul on the Lake School, to describe how she would convey an encounter with Christ. Peggy never quite seemed satisfied with the answers, and I got the impression she was looking for something personal and sensate. My musings while listening to the interview led me to formulate what I've come to call the Reflexive Property of Charity. (Actually, when I say "formulate," here, all I mean is that I gave it a name fitting it's character. It was really formulated by Jesus in the Gospel.)

Two thoughts occurred to me while listening to the interview. The first is that we have a very real, very personal encounter with Jesus every time we receive Holy Communion in Mass. Jesus said "This is My Body...This is My Blood...do this in remembrance of Me." When we receive Holy Communion, we encounter Jesus directly, completely, and very personally. It doesn't get any more real and personal than that in this life. The only thing that keeps Holy Communion from being a perfect encounter with Jesus is the imperfection of my own contemplation of the reality of the Eucharist.

The second thought that occurred to me is that Jesus already told us how to encounter Him in the world, outside of our direct, liturgical, interaction with Him. He said "Whatsoever you do for the least of these...." That's the part that led me to name the Reflexive Property of Charity, and even though it's a truth I grew up with, it was a bit surprising once I thought to put it in these words: By becoming Christ to another by showing charity, we encounter Christ in that other. Taking it a step further: The more we become Christ to another by showing charity, the more we encounter Christ in that other. Charity reflects Jesus back to us in the person for whom we are showing love.