In the weeks before Christmas, we heard that there was renewed confidence in the economy in our country. Holiday spending was higher than in 2009, with reports that online spending increased 13 percent over the previous year.
That is good news for our economy. However, a news release from HamiltonStrategies.com also pointed out that while consumer spending was up, donations to some non-profit organizations were lower than last year.
For example, Salvation Army Red Kettle donations were reported to be down in cities across the country, as much as 15 to 30 percent lower in some areas. The downturn was attributed to a struggling economy and a lack of bell-ringing volunteers.
Hopefully this scenario is not true for all non-profit organizations. However, it does seem sad that people are willing to spend more money on Christmas gifts, but they’re not willing to help those in need.
May I suggest a New Year’s resolution for all of us? Consider giving of your time, talent, and treasure on a regular basis to assist those who are less fortunate. It’s great to give a Christmas donation, but non-profit organizations need our continued support all year long.
Love of God inseparable from love of neighbor
For Catholics, the practice of charitable giving is part and parcel of being a follower of Christ. In his encyclical Deus Caritas Est (God Is Love, 2006), Pope Benedict XVI says that love of God and love of neighbor are “inseparable.”
The Holy Father warns that we cannot truly love our neighbor without loving God — and the reverse is also true: we cannot simply love God without loving our neighbor. He says, “If I have no contact whatsoever with God in my life, then I cannot see in the other anything more than the other, and I am incapable of seeing in him the image of God. But if in my life I fail completely to heed others, solely out of a desire to be ‘devout’ and to perform my ‘religious duties,’ then my relationship with God will also grow arid. It becomes merely ‘proper,’ but loveless.
“Only my readiness to encounter my neighbor and to show him love makes me sensitive to God as well. Only if I serve my neighbor can my eyes be opened to what God does for me and how much he loves me,” says the pope.
He points out that the saints constantly renewed their capacity for love of neighbor from their encounter with the Eucharistic Lord, and conversely this encounter acquired its realism and depth in their service to others.
“Love of God and love of neighbor are thus inseparable, they form a single commandment,” said Pope Benedict. He adds that rather than a commandment imposed from without, it should rather be a freely-bestowed experience of love from within, a love which by its very nature must be shared with others. “Love grows through love,” he reminds us.
Sharing love and resources with others
So as followers of Christ, we have our marching orders to share the love of God with others. We can do this certainly within our families and with our friends, but this love should also extend into our communities — both locally and farther beyond.
There are so many ways we can share our love and our resources. As Catholics, we are fortunate to have diocesan, parish, and community organizations which reach out to those in need.
In the Diocese of Madison, Catholic Charities (www.ccmadison.org) serves as a visible presence of the Catholic Church by providing services that effectively address the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of individuals and families.
Also reaching out to those in need is the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (www.svdpmadison.org). Year-round, the society provides person-to-person assistance with basic needs for food, clothing, mattresses, shelter, medicine, and more. Throughout the Diocese of Madison, the society offers thrift stores and food pantries to help the poor.
In Madison, the Catholic Multicultural Center (www.cmctoday.org) serves people of all races and faiths by providing a daily meal program and food assistance, in addition to health services, education, job development, children’s programs, and religious services.
These are just a few suggestions of where we can donate our time and financial resources to put our New Year’s resolution into practice in 2011.