December 6, 2013

Faith, Hope and Charity / David Siler

God’s love: The greatest gift of all

David SilerDuring this season of gratitude and of gift giving and receiving, I am reminded of the greatest gift of all—God’s love, care and personal concern for every one of his creations. And God’s abundant and inexhaustible mercy.

It is not uncommon for the people served by our staff and volunteers at Catholic Charities to have an extremely deflated opinion of themselves.

It is often with great shame that they come to our shelters, soup kitchens, crisis relief programs and any of our many programs. The most obvious looks of shame can be found on the faces of people who come to us for the first time—those who have never had to ask for help, and we’ve seen an increasing number of “first-timers” over the past few years due to the economy.

The food, shelter, clothing or any of the services we offer are just one way that we demonstrate the mercy of our great God to those who are suffering.

Perhaps more importantly is the loving, personal concern shown to them through a face that might be a bit brighter than their own at the time they visit us. We all need to be reminded from time to time that no matter our circumstances, no matter how we have failed ourselves or those around us, God’s mercy is available in unlimited supply.

Another aspect of our ministry can be demonstrated by the story of Zacchaeus found in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 19.

Zacchaeus climbed a sycamore fig tree in order to get a glimpse of Jesus. It is probably no coincidence that the tree was a sycamore fig. Its fruit is sour until it is pierced, at which time it becomes sweet.

Jesus asked to come to Zacchaeus’ house to stay. Somehow in that brief encounter with Jesus, his once-sour heart was pierced by the love of Jesus and became sweet. Zacchaeus had an immediate and profound experience of the mercy of God through his Son.

Our own encounters with Jesus, especially in the Eucharist, can pierce our own hearts and make us more open to God’s love and mercy for us. In turn, they allow us to serve others by offering them their own encounter with Jesus.

Each of us can “pierce” another’s heart with the love of Jesus—simply through the gift of our time, attention and heartfelt concern.

Hearts are mended, mercy is given and mercy just might be received when we share the kind of love that says, “I will look past anything that you have done or failed to do, I will not judge you, but I will see you with the eyes of God.”

At Catholic Charities, we see people first because of material poverty, but we also seek to see their poverty of spirit. We are all called as Catholics to act in the same way.

People in poverty may be getting exactly what they deserve due to the life choices they have made. I would not say the same, however, of children or the disabled. God’s justice goes far beyond human justice. God does not give us what we deserve, but rather the very essence of God’s self—love. No matter what!

In the same way, as followers of God’s Son, our Redeemer, we are called to offer this same justice to our neighbors—a justice that moves way beyond what may be deserved to what is freely offered by our loving Creator.

(David Siler is the executive director of the archdiocesan Secretariat for Catholic Charities and Family Ministries. E-mail him at

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