At times it can be frustrating to think that the assistance we give to a neighbor in need will not only be insufficient to lift them from poverty, but may not be enough even to get them through the next week.
The efficient and plentiful distribution of goods and services isn’t our primary purpose, though. As the original edition of The Rule in 1835 explained, “we must never be ashamed of the smallness of our alms.” Rather, for each neighbor we assist, it is “our tender interest – our very manner, [that gives] to our alms a value which they do not possess in themselves.”
Our primary purpose since the beginning has been to grow in holiness, and our secondary purpose to bring our neighbors closer to God. Our service, in the form of the Home Visit, is the primary means towards both of those purposes.
“No work of charity should be regarded as foreign to the Society,” that 1835 Rule continues, “although its special object is to visit poor families.”
It is only through this special ministry of person-to-person service that “our tender interest” attaches to “the smallness of our alms.” What may appear small to the wealthy, is large in the eyes of the poor. More importantly, it is when we serve those in need personally, following the example and teaching of Christ, that we may also bring Christ to those in need.
“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” [MT 18:20]
Mahatma Ghandi once said, that “there are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.” The bread we offer, the bill we pay, the prayer we offer, can be the light of God when offered for love alone. It can begin to relieve the greatest poverty – the feeling that one is forgotten, or unworthy.
Our offerings to the poor, Christ assures us, will be received as if given to Himself. Our service to the poor is not about demanding a result, but about offering Christ’s love, and ours, in a spirit of selflessness and humility. It is about giving, not achieving.
“Our charity would be less meritorious, and might expose us to vainglory, if we saw it always crowned with success.” [The Rule, 1835, as reprinted 1906, Superior Council, NY]
Contemplate: What result do I seek in my Home Visits?
Recommended Reading: The Rule, Part I