IN ANY group that we may belong to, be it a family, a neighborhood, a class, an office, etc., we should have that concern for one another such that we form one organic whole whose parts or members know what to do and help each other for the good of all. In other words, that no one should be ostracized or left behind in spite of our differences and conflicts, and even the mistakes and sins we may commit against one another.
This, I believe, is the social aspect of charity which should not be lived only on a one-to-one basis but also on the level of any given human aggrupation. Of course, our capacity to live charity in the social dimension would depend also on how we live charity on the personal and individual level. We just have to make sure that our person-to-person charity is not stuck there. It has to expand and cover everyone in any group.
Underlining this point is this beautiful story of the 40 holy martyrs of Sebaste (in present-time Turkey) way back in the 4th century. They were soldiers who believed in Christ, and their superior wanted them to renounce their faith.
To make the story short, they refused to renounce their faith and preferred to suffer martyrdom. When all 40 of them were exposed to the cold to die, they agreed they die together. “God so ordained that we made friends with each other in this temporary life,” one of them said, “let us try not to separate even in eternity…”
As the story unfolded, one of them actually left the group, but the soldier who was assigned to watch over them, suddenly converted and made himself a substitute to the one who left. In the end, it was still 40 of them who died for the faith.
This should be the spirit we ought to have in any social unit we may be in. To care for one another should be something instinctive. To feel an organic part of the group both in good times and in bad should be strengthened.
When we happen to have some personal needs and predicaments, we should not be afraid or ashamed to let the others know. And the others should try not to hesitate to complicate their lives just to help the ones in some need.
This point is highlighted, for example, in the gospel when Christ told the story of a man who bothered his friend and store owner in the middle of the night to give him bread because an unexpected visitor just arrived and the man had nothing to offer the visitor. (cfr. Lk 11, 5-13)
We should not be afraid and ashamed to let our friends know about our predicaments. Christ gave this reassurance for that kind of attitude: “Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Lk 11, 9) And if we are the ones asked for favors from our friends, we should try to give in always, even willing to complicate our lives for our friends.
In the school where I work, I always encourage the students to have a good class spirit where everyone should be concerned about everybody else. As one liturgical prayer would put it: “Stand fast in a common unity of spirit, with the faith for your common cause. Each of you must study the welfare of others not his own.”
This should be the proper spirit. And so I tell those students who are more gifted than the others to share what they know and have with those who are less gifted. And to those who are less gifted, I tell them not to be afraid to approach their classmates for some help, be it about the subjects or about other things./PN