“May the Lord make you overflow with love for one another and for all, even as our love does for you. May He strengthen your hearts…At the coming of our Lord Jesus…” — Thes. 3:12-13
Toy collections, food drives, charity bazaars — all common activities in communities and parishes during the Christmas season. And they are good. They help fulfill Jesus’ mandate to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31).
However, this command of Jesus is subordinate to the one preceding it — “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind.”
Love of neighbor flows from love of God, and love of God is a prerequisite for a charitable action. There is a profound difference between a humanitarian act and an act of charity.
A humanitarian action, admirable as it may be, is limited in potential. Rooted in human compassion and accomplished through human incentive, it goes only as far as the individual’s generosity and goodwill carry it.
An act of charity, however, is much different. It finds its source in love of God and its roots are sunk into the divine life itself.
A charitable action is infused with grace and brings a supernatural reality to the circumstance or situation it aids. Like its source, an act of charity has benefits that are infinite, limitless, and everlasting.
As Catholics, we should desire that all of our actions toward others be acts of charity. St. Therese of Lisieux expressed the reason well when she said, “Without love, deeds, even the most brilliant, count as nothing.” St. John Vianney said the same: “All that we do without offering it to God is wasted.”
We don’t want our deeds to be wasted. Rather, we want them to count, and to count toward that which is of greatest value — eternal life — for others and for ourselves.
One way in which we can make certain our actions toward others are acts of charity is to make a morning offering every day.
The Morning Offering is a time-honored prayer that offers every aspect of ourselves and our day to God. A simple morning offering can make even the smallest of actions a conduit of great grace in the lives of others as well as for ourselves.
Here is an example of a short but inclusive morning offering. It is the one I pray every morning:
Dear Lord, Thank you for another day of life.
Today I offer you all of my thoughts, all of my words,
all of my deeds, and all of my sufferings.
May they tend to your greater glory and to my eternal salvation.
Many spiritual writers and saints suggest that our Morning Offering be made in union with the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Sister Josepha Menendez, a mystic who lived from 1890-1923 said that she heard Our Lord tell her:
“When you awake, enter at once into My Heart, and when you are in it, offer My Father all your actions united to the pulsations of My Heart … If (someone is) engaged in work of no value in itself, if she bathes it in My Blood or unites it to the work I Myself did during My mortal life, it will greatly profit souls…more, perhaps, than if she had preached to the whole world. You will be able to save many souls that way.”
The Medieval saint, Mechtilde (124101298), received these words from Jesus:
“When you awake in the morning, let your first act be to salute My Heart, and to offer Me your own…Whoever shall breathe a sigh toward Me from the bottom of his heart when he awakes in the morning and shall ask Me to work all his works in him throughout the day, will draw Me to him…For never does a man breathe a sigh of longing aspiration toward Me without drawing Me nearer to him than I was before.”
These words encourage us to renew our Morning Offering several times during the day with a spiritual “nod” or “salute” to Our Lord. Little aspirations, “Jesus I trust in You,” “Have mercy on me, Lord;” “I offer this small task to you now, Jesus,” are efficacious for our spiritual lives and the sanctification of our every action.
Today’s Spiritual Exercise
1. What attitude of heart do I bring to the charitable actions I perform — do I see them as a means of communicating the love of God?
2. Can I remember a time in my own life when a kindness shown toward me raised my mind and heart to God? What made it so different from other kindnesses shown to me?
3. Who is the one person that I know who can most benefit by a charitable action? What charitable action can I perform for this person today?
4. Begin to include a Morning Offering in your daily prayers — perhaps even before you get out of bed.
5. Today, renew your Morning Offering at least once in the morning hours, once in the afternoon, and once in the evening. Be sure to record in your journal and change you notice in the “intentionality” and “dispositon” of your heart as you go through your day.
Copyright 2009, by Johnnette S. Benkovic. All rights reserved.