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Selling charity today

By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, roycimagala@gmail.com
December 15, 2011

SELLING charity today is like selling rotten fish. You would have more success selling it to a wall. Charity has become a total outcast, hardly known, ignored if not ridiculed by many who are driven only by their so-called sense of justice.

This actually has always been our universal human problem. The root cause is that we pursue justice outside of charity. We make it subject only to our feelings and passions. Or to purely human criteria and laws that cannot go far from the eye-for-an-eye law of Talion, and the tit-for-tat logic of our wiles.

Itís a justice that is mired in legalism, very prone to manipulations, to knee-jerk reactions, to the mob rule dynamics, that cannot free itself from the motive of vindictiveness, and the temptation to gloat over the misfortunes of others, to insult and do all sorts of below-the-belt actuations.

Without charity, itís a justice that is not an organic extension of divine justice, but its caricature. It covers only a biased part of the over-all picture of true justice, and its main if not sole purpose is to punish and demand restitution, rather than to heal the offender, the sinner.

It considers only the externals, and hardly the inner drama in menís hearts. Its judgments are therefore based mainly on appearances and impressions. Those who dispense it tend to get hasty and rash in their decisions, often abusing the discretionary part of law.

If possible, what injustice damaged, wounded and killed, justice should repair, heal and resurrect to life. If possible, justice should go against the law of nature, of biology and physics, etc., if only to recover what was lost. It finds it hard to move on without satisfying its lust for revenge.

We have to understand that without charity, justice can go unhinged, and can simply follow the madness of a heart deprived of God who is precisely love, charity. We have to understand that justice is never enough when we deal with people, especially those who may have offended us.

Without charity, our justice can only spring and strengthen our self-righteousness, or that of the world, in its different forms. Itís a justice that cannot understand the workings of grace, the value of the cross, the need for forgiveness and the transcendent providence of God.

Still, no matter how hard it is to sell charity today, we just have to make an act of faith and hope that one day, people will realize we need charity, the charity of God and not just our own version, when we pursue the cause of justice. We just have to run the gauntlet.

Nowadays, the Church, that is, the bishops and priests, gets accused for not doing enough of justice. Some contributors of public opinion claim that the Church gets quiet when one of its own gets involved in some crime, or when it does not make any clear pronouncements on the volatile political issues wracking the nation today.

Aside from mistaking the Church to be composed only of bishops and priests (the Church is hierarchy-clergy-and the laity and consecrated religious men and women all together), they want the Church to follow their kind of earthly justice. They want the Church to shame the suspect or the culprit, for example. They cry for blood.

Perhaps, itís partly the fault of our Church leaders for not providing concrete Christian guidelines on how to resolve problems and issues when they erupt. They should do this as promptly and as clearly and strongly as prudently possible.

But the truth is all of us, clergy or lay, if we are to be genuine Christians and living members of the Church, should practice justice always within the sphere of the charity of God, revealed and lived by Christ.

Certainly, there are loopholes in how cases of criminal offenses within the Church human structure may be handled, or there can be cases of clerics overstepping their competence and are falling already into partisan politics, etc.

These should be repaired and corrected. But these are not excuses for the Church to pursue justice without charity, just like what these Church accusers want it to do. These accusers are making themselves the final authority of what justice is and how it should be lived.

Granted, to preach about justice within charity may be hard, but definitely itís not impossible. If we just learn how to be humble, if all of us just try to assume the mind and heart of Christ, as we Christians ought to do, then the ideal can be made real!