Lately I've been reflecting on charity. Not the kind where we drop a few coins in someone's basket or some used clothes at the Caritas, or even the kind where we make a financial contribution to a good cause. While important, those are relatively easy, impersonal forms of charity. But what about charity that challenges us at a personal level? Do we behave charitably towards those who don't fit our internal constructs of being "deserving"? Do we react with charity to individuals who's own personal suffering causes them to behave badly towards us? Do we challenge ourselves to look for "that of God in everyone"?
We all know someone who pushes our buttons - an acquaintance, relative or colleague who just makes us crazy. It's so easy to judge, to disengage - especially when people are legitimately objectionable. While we all know intellectually that we should be charitable towards these people, that to do as Jesus did requires us to be, but how often do we really challenge ourselves to open our hearts and do so?
Do we ration our charity according to who merits it more? Does a disaster victim "deserve" our charity more than a criminal? Is an addict less worthy than a cancer patient? Do recipients of our charity have to be faultless, blameless in their pain for us to engage? I try so hard to remember that the greatest acts of charity are the most difficult ones. Of course this doesn't mean that I always succeed, or even almost always, but I do try. I have to have faith that this spiritual practice, and my imperfect charity, are some small measure of what Jesus asks me to do.
This has been on my mind and heart a lot lately. I suppose I ask more questions than I am capable of answering. I hope that some of you will feel moved to weigh in with your comments.