This is a charitable time of year. In honor of God’s great gift of Christ — the Incarnation, the dawn of our redemption — Christians give. Coins clink among dollars in the Salvation Army kettles, Angel Tree gifts arrive at parishes, and everyone is making a list and checking it twice.
Christian giving of course is not limited to “the Christmas season” nor should it be, for need and the response that it prompts are year-round. The Catholic Church is the largest charitable organization in the world. Her extension of compassionate care to all men “makes the nations prove (test) the wonders of His love.” For this reason many Catholics pride themselves quite consciously on the non-discriminatory nature of their liberality, on their willingness to help all, regardless of religious affiliation. In fact many Catholics would view the suggestion that they ought to discriminate in their giving toward their co-religionists as being akin to a suggestion that they should exclude from charity persons of some ethnicity or race.
Saint Paul’s sensibilities were not that delicate, though. Certainly he was mindful that the Lord enjoined us to do good to even our enemies:
[I] say to you that listen, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you… If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. But love your enemies, do good…. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful (Luke 6:27-36 RSV).
Nevertheless, without diminishing what Christ said about doing good to all, the Apostle supplements the command with a focus and priority for our charity:
And let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith (Galatians 6:7-10 RSV, emphasis mine).
St. Paul is not the only apostle to direct our attention to the needs of those in our household of faith. In the context of discussing those present at the celebration of the liturgy, St. James writes:
If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? (James 2:15-16 RSV).
And the Beloved Apostle reiterates:
We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren…. By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But if any one has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? (John 3:14, 16-17 RSV).
The references to our brothers and sisters — the brethren — are talking about our fellow Christians and especially those who share in Catholic worship with us.
But doing good is not merely a matter of how we direct charity. It encompasses other economic decisions we make as well. All other things being equal, we should seek to buy goods from a Catholic-owned business, eat at a Catholic-owned restaurant, hire Catholic contractors and craftsmen, and obtain the services of Catholic physicians, mechanics, hairdressers, and computer programmers. And maybe sometimes we need to do that when all other things are not equal, when economies of scale do not favor our brethren, but we can.
In a world that is so steeped in the culture of death, our economic decisions become even more weighted. Giving business to those who support “same-sex marriage” or “abortion rights” for instance, means that some of the money you spend may end up in the coffers of those who are attempting to destroy every vestige of Christian morality still alive in our country, and who are attacking our religious freedom and the conscience rights of Catholic professionals. The battle for life is always underfunded, while the forces of death are constantly waging economic warfare against pro-lifers. Faithful Catholic business people who give to their parishes and to other Catholic institutions deserve priority consideration from their fellow Catholics. It is time we took seriously the Apostle’s council and put the “especially” back into our decisions.