Message for the 36th Caritas Sunday
Charity as the Sign and Result of Conversion
Beloved brothers and sisters,
The Catholic Church in Korea celebrates Caritas Sunday on the third Sunday of Advent every year. The reason why Caritas Sunday is celebrated in the season of Advent is: ‘charity,’ as a way to prepare ourselves for the Birth of Jesus, means not only ‘material assistance’ but also the ‘sign and result of conversion.’ Without knowing it, we sometimes fall into the temptation of living only for ourselves and our families, turning our eyes away from neighbors in need. Although we are the children of God, we often do not act as His children. Conversion means to repent of such a lifestyle and to open our minds towards both God and neighbors. Such a conversion is demonstrated by giving alms to neighbors.
We can reflect on how to be open to our neighbors by reference to ‘The Parable of the Good Samaritan’ (Lk 10,30-37). When a scholar asked, “Who is my neighbor?”, Jesus replied with this parable: A priest and a Levite passed by on the opposite side, looking at the robbed man who was badly hurt and left on side of the road. However, a Samaritan, moved with compassion at the sight, approached him to give first aid, took him to an inn and cared for him. The next day he gave money to the innkeeper, asking him to take care of the injured man, even to the extent of telling him that on his way back, he would repay whatever was needed for the care of the wounded man.
Then, the scholar who asked Jesus who his neighbor was, had to answer Jesus as to which of the three was a true neighbor to the robbers’ victim: “He answered, ‘The one who treated him with mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise’” (Lk 10,37).
In what way does Jesus direct us with this parable? He asks us not to ignore those in need, but to draw near to them as the Good Samaritan did. It is never easy to approach our neighbor because such an approach requires courage. In this time of prevailing individualism and selfishness, we are afraid to reach out to our neighbors because confronting the suffering can make us feel uncomfortable. The priest and the Levite each passed by the robbed man ‘as if they had not noticed.’ However, the Samaritan who had an open heart, could not turn his back on the suffering of the wounded man on the roadside. In fact, he cared for the robbed man with mercy, considering him as a member of his own family or even as himself. On the occasion of this Caritas Sunday, Jesus also request each of us to, “Go and do likewise.”
In 2020, we are experiencing great hardships and suffering caused by COVID-19. According to the report released by the World Bank in October 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the number of those living in extreme poverty by 100 million while increasing the wealth of the rich by 8,000 trillion won. South Korea has also been impacted by COVID-19, which, in turn, has worsened the polarization between the wealthy and the poor. This year, there has been an unprecedented number of people suffering from extreme economic distress.
The homeless and the poor living in slums, who rely on free meal distribution, have been hardest hit by the suspension of such delivery services. Such suspensions are aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19. We all have neighbors with different faces, some irregular employees and migrant workers who have lost their jobs, as well as self-employed workers, bankrupt men and women, and the homeless. Futhermore, there was a sharp increase in the number of those desperately in need of a helping hand due to climate change as unprecedented amounts of rainfall, frequent typhoons and floods in summer caused damage.
Dear brothers and sisters!
In this era of the COVID-19 pandemic, we should practice almsgiving as a testimony to fraternal charity. In this way, we will be filled with the fruits and joys of the Christian life: spiritual happiness given by God that cannot be bought with money. Indeed, the power of charity is great, for “almsgiving saves from death, and purges all sin” (Tb 12,9; cf. Sir 3,30). According to Christian wisdom, almsgiving is a treasure stored in heaven (cfs. Sir 29,12; Lk 12,33). On this occasion, all of us are invited to store an inexhaustible treasure in heaven. We also have to keep in mind the words of Jesus in pointing out the genuine criteria of what it is to truly give alms: “When you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you” (Mt 6,3-4).
Dear brothers and sisters!
I would like to invite you to be Good Samaritans who give their alms in secret just as Jesus instructed. Let us make a concerted effort to ensure that more people celebrate the Nativity of 2020 with joy, even in the midst of these cold and harsh times.
December 13, 2020
The 36th Caritas Sunday
+ Timothy Yu Gyoung Chon
Auxiliary Bishop of Seoul
CBCK Caritas Committee