By FRANCIS REMKIEWICZ
Caritas (kari-toss) is the Latin for charity. The root word is actually ‘kara’ (Greek) which when translated means head or dear. From that word comes the old French word charity and concurrently the old English word karite/cherite and from those two words come charity. From that point on the Middle English word charity is now and is still in use. The meaning back in “those days” means love of one’s brother. It is a Christian love. And according to Christ that love extends to everyone without exception. Let me repeat that, “without exception”. This is how Christ defines it,
“Jesus said unto him, you shall love the Lord thy God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself”. Translated throughout the ages we are discussing Christian charity.
I have noticed of late that both commandments are not taken very seriously these days. Every research group I am aware of finds that attendance at worship services is down, way down. And love your neighbor has turned into, a bumper sticker like, “I hope you step on a Lego,” or a little more direct, “Keep tailgating me. I am reloading.” Our social, political, interpersonal, and psychological language has turned into nothing less than hate speech. That is, negative and mean-spirited words directed at each other. Oftentimes even though we have no idea who it is that we said it to. We are throwing away our Christian charity.
The Jewish Defense League, the Southern Poverty Law Center, Heritage Foundation, Pew Research Center; they have all documented a distinct rise in both the number of hate groups as well as increasing membership in these groups. Why do you suppose that is?
Immigration? Social programs like Welfare and food stamps? Politics? Policing? While many have found some group to join and express their displeasure with something in the world, that does not explain the root cause of all this vitriol. I have never been able to understand a group whose main outcome is hate.
What does explain it is a lack of gratitude. And with that lack of gratitude comes a sense of entitlement. And with entitlement comes jealousy. And jealousy is the seedling of hate. Why attend worship services when this world is ours already. Why should we worship God if he created everything and gave it to us? We are here. The world and everything in it is here, God told me it was mine and so I can do with the world what I want, and I want to subdue it. I am entitled to drive my car so why not drill for oil. I am entitled to the best and least costly clothes and tech gear so why worry if a 9-year-old child sews my clothes or builds my phone and gets paid almost nothing and lives in hovels. It is my right. I arrived in this country first and I made the laws, and I govern the cities and states so why do I have to share it with anyone else. And why do some people get into jobs and schools easier than me? This all stems from an inability to be thankful. The Dictionary of Oxford Languages defines gratitude as the “quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” A gift is to be treasured and not mined.
One part of worship is giving thanks to God for our life, the food we eat, the clothes we wear. Worship is also “returning the kindness”. God created each of us and with that our intellect, our talents, and our abilities. We did not somehow do that, and we are certainly not entitled to those gifts, i.e., there is no “earning” of a gift. These are things for which we ought to be grateful. The best way to do that is to attend a worship service ... regularly. To return the kindness. What was the first gift we were all given? Life! To the best of my knowledge no one has ever earned their life. It is a gift from God.
And the gifts we are given by God are not to be squandered. That would be a slap in God’s face and hardly considered gratitude. The gifts we received were meant to be shared with everyone we met. Not just with the people we love, the people we like and the people we tolerate but with every other person on this earth.
The last 50 years remind me of the servants who the master gave 10, 5, and 2 talents to work with while the master travelled away from home. Our grandparents and our parents increased those talents despite a depression and a world war. We on the other hand sat at home and cried about how our parents and grandparents got 5 talents or 10 talents and we only got 2. We yell at immigrants, why should they get any talents? We tell women, they do not need as many talents as we have. We criticize people of color because someone or some government gave them talents and yet talents are given freely to those who ask. Remember the passage in the Bible where workers came at all times of the day from the very beginning to the very end? The master of the field paid all the workers the same wage.
And while we are so wrapped up in “what is in it for me” our cities, schools, and community buildings are crumbling around us. Our roads are collapsing under us, our air is fouled as is our water and around 26,000 children die of hunger worldwide every day.
We have taken the gift of creation and turned it on its head. We replaced the act of creating with the act of destruction. Each of us has built our families, our careers, and our lives on all those who have gone before us. We throw a phrase like “self-made person” like there really is such a person. If nothing else none of us created ourselves. Our very being is built around God, our parents, our teachers, our friends, and yes, our enemies. Jesus requires that we love them all. It is a love so radical that no one can escape it.
Francis (Frank) Remkiewicz is an area resident and contributes a monthly column focused primarily on faith and religion. He can be reached at email@example.com. Opinions expressed are those of the author.