A need to give, a need to receive

Larry Smith

Our mission at Catholic Charities is to serve Jesus Christ by serving those with the greatest needs: our brothers and sisters who may be hungry, homeless and suffering. But it’s probably those with a need to give who have a greater hunger than those with a need to receive. Think about it. Don’t we all have a need to give? When someone receives a sandwich, or a place to sleep, they’re really giving the giver an opportunity to connect with Jesus Christ.

The corporal works of mercy are to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, visit the imprisoned and bury the dead. Isn’t that what we’re all asked to do by Jesus Christ at one point or another in our lives? The spiritual works of mercy are to instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, admonish sinners, bear wrongs patiently, forgive offenses, comfort the afflicted, and to pray for the living and the dead.

Catholic Charities is about sharing the love and mercy of Jesus Christ in order to serve givers and receivers, from conception to natural death. We have a wide variety of ministries that serve 50,000 people a year throughout the Archdiocese of Denver. We have five child-care centers, with The Mariposa Early Childhood Education Center to open in 2015. We have five shelters, with a sixth one, the Holy Rosary Center for Women, opening soon. Regina Caeli Clinical Services offers counseling and mental health services. Lighthouse Women’s Center cares for pregnant woman—and is located across the street from an abortion clinic.

I invite you to join us at Catholic Charities. Pray for us. Volunteer at serve.ccdenver.org. And as you’re making year-end charitable donations, consider making an unrestricted tax-deductible gift to Catholic Charities. Our mailing address is 4045 Pecos St., Denver, CO 80211. Or, go to our website at www.ccdenver.org and click the red box that reads, “Donate to Change Lives,” and give to “Our Greatest Need.” You may also give restricted gifts to Catholic Charities that may provide greater tax benefits through the Child Care Tax Credit and Enterprise Zone Tax Credit. See the adjoining table for more information.

I wish you and your families a blessed Advent and a merry Christmas.

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COMING UP: Healing hatred and anger after Charlottesville

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The confrontation in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the nationwide reaction to it are clear signs of the tensions simmering just below the surface of our society. But we know as people of faith that these wounds can be healed if we follow Christ’s example, rather than the path of revenge.

It was with a heavy heart that I learned about the Aug. 12 clashes between white supremacists and counter protesters in Charlottesville that resulted in the injury of around 34 people and the death of Heather Heyer. It was an “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” melee.

These events remind me of Pope Francis’ 2017 World Day of Peace message, in which he pointed out that “Jesus himself lived in violent times. Yet he taught that the true battlefield, where violence and peace meet, is the human heart: for ‘it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come’ (Mk. 7:21).”

What we witnessed in Charlottesville was an outward expression of hundreds of hearts, and as a shepherd of souls, I cannot stand by silently while people allow hatred toward others rule their hearts. Particularly reprehensible were the derogatory words the neo-Nazis and their white supremacist allies shouted toward African Americans, Jews and Latinos. This is not how God sees his children!

Every human being is bestowed from the moment of conception with the dignity of being made in the image and likeness of God, and we are all loved by him, even amid our sin and brokenness. Satan seeks every opportunity to twist these fundamental truths in the hearts of human beings and we can see the devastation it brings throughout history.

It can be tempting to respond to these attacks on our fellow man with violence, just as the members of the Anti-fascist movement (known as “Antifa”) did in Charlottesville. But this is not what Christ taught, since it allows hatred to gain a foothold through a different avenue. It is worth repeating: the human heart is the true battlefield.

Jesus’ response to violence and persecution stands in contrast with the way of hatred and anger. Instead, he taught his disciples to love their enemies (Mt. 5:44) and to turn the other cheek (Mt. 5:39). Christ’s radical answer is only possible because God unconditionally loves every person and is ready to forgive us when we repent. God’s love is the only thing that can cut through the hatred that is bringing people to blows, heal the human heart and form it after his own. As people of faith, we are called to bring the truth of love to these festering wounds so that hearts may be healed by Christ.

Joseph Pearce, the Catholic convert and former white supremacist, is a perfect example of this. In a recent article for the National Catholic Register, he recalls how it was his encounter with the objective truths of the faith that demolished his race-centered identity and seeing his enemies love him when he confronted them with hatred that changed his heart. We must pray for the grace to love as Jesus loves, to love as the Father loves.

“The way out of this deadly spiral,” Pearce says, “is to go beyond the love of neighbor, as necessary as that is, and to begin to love our enemies. This is not simply good for us, freeing us from the bondage of hatred; it is good for our enemies also.”

May all of us follow the great example of Mark Heyer, the father of the woman who was killed after the white supremacist rally. His daughter’s death, Heyer told USA Today, made him think “about what the Lord said on the cross, ‘Forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.’”

Jesus desires that every person have a heart that is whole and free from hatred, anger and pride. He desires to form our hearts, and that only comes about when we are receptive to his unconditional love, for only in receiving his unconditional love will we be able to give it to others. I pray that all the faithful will be instruments of healing for our country by bringing Christ’s forgiveness to their neighbors and their enemies.