“Only Children’s Magazine of International Standard” is the maxim or slogan written on the cover page of The Magazine “Sahaj Balanand “meaning “instincently happy child”. This popular magazine’s Editor Mr. Yeshwant Mehta is agnostic. So I was surprised to see on its cover a clearly identifiable Cross very well drawn inside a maze! Cross is a well known symbol of Christian Religion.
The maze with the Cross on the cover page of the April 2015 issue had still more surprises for me. On the one side of the maze there was a picture of a child named ‘little Wilson’ and on the other side was a hazy picture of a poor man. The writing below the maze says,
“Our little friend is Wilson. Once he saw a poor man. He is moved with pity to help the poor man. But the road between Wilson and the poor man is ticky and puzzling. You please help Wilson to find the shortest way to reach the poor man.”
The picture of the Cross, a character named Wilson and the idea of helping the poor – these are all very Christian. They all reveal for me the good will of the agnostic editor towards Christianity. For, we find the root of the idea of helping the poor in the life and message of Jesus Christ. While on earth Jesus, so to say went out of his way to help the poor and needy people of his time. Moreover he gave instruction to his disciples to help the poor and run to their rescue.
In the beginning of his public life Jesus declared:
“The spirit of the Lord is upon on me,
because he has chosen me to bring
good news to the poor
he has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind;
to set free the oppressed.” (Lk 4: 18)
then, again in the Sermon on the Mountain Jesus says,
“Happy are those who know they are Spiritually poor; The Kingdom of heaven belongs to them!” (Mt 5; 3)
Inspired with this teaching and the examples of Jesus Christ, his followers beginning with the first Christians down the centuries have always engages themselves in the service of the poor and helping the needy.
St. Paul is an Apostle who spent his whole life to spread Jesus’ message far and wide. After preaching Jesus’ life and teaching in many countries, St Paul writes a letter to the Christians in Rome, “Just now I am going to Jerusalem in the service of God’s people there. For the Churches in Macedonia and Achaia have freely decided to give an offering to help the poor among God’s people in Jerusalem. That decision was their own; but, as a matter of fact, they have an obligation to help them. Since the Jews shared their spiritual blessing with the Gentiles, the Gentiles ought to use their material blessings to help the Jews” (Rom 15: 25-27)
If you take away the service to the poor from the Christian religion, then I am sure that the Christian religion will no longer be the one founded by Jesus Christ.
Inspired by the teaching of Jesus and the example of the Christians, today many people of other faiths and of no faiths serve the poor people. Looking from this angle the whole humanity has come under the influence of Christianity. Still the Christian Religion is not just an organization of social service.
Behind the social service of the Christians there is the acceptance of God’s mercy and compassion on the people. We say that “God is merciful. God is most compassionate.” In the words of Prophet Hosea in the Bible as quoted in St. Mathew’s Gospel, Jesus said, “Go and find out what is meant by the scripture that says: It is kindness that I want, not animal sacrifice” (Mt. 9:13). Bible often speaks about the compassion. In the first Book of Chronicles King David says, “I don’t want to be punished by men. Let the Lord himself be the one to punish me, because he is merciful” (1 Chr. 21:13). In the New Testament Mother Mary acknowledges God’s mercy: “From one generation to another he (God) shows mercy to those who honors him” (Lk 1:50).
Every follower of Jesus knows that himself (herself) has received God’s mercy. God has showered his mercy on him/her. Inspired by this mercy Christians help the poor. Serve the needy. So if a Christian does social work and serve the poor and the needy, then there are specially two things: First, there is the acknowledgement that he/she has been blessed with God’s mercy; and second, there is the acceptance that he/she is only a channel of God’s mercy to others.
The people who do not understand the mercy and compassion of God for the people, the service of Christians to poor people is either mere social works or it a means to attract the simple, poor people for religious conversion. It is bribing and cheating them!
Some people do not understand the idea or the concept of God’s mercy and compassion; consequently they do not comprehend the social service done by Mother Teresa and other Christians. They have totally failed to understand one thing that every Christians sees the other person as one created in God’s own image and likeness. So the poor, the Dalits, the Tribals, the sick, the crippled – every person is precious in the sight of God. Here everyone deserves the love and respect of everyone else. In this love and respect there is the acceptance and identity of every human being as a person. But those, who seek in everything their own selfish gains, cannot accept others as equals and sincerely love and respect them without any prejudice.
On the other hand, the Christians see their service to the poor not as social works but service rendered to Jesus Christ himself. So any selfless service of man is a service dedicated to Jesus himself. Jesus has said, “I tell you, whenever you did this (service) for one of the least important of these brothers of mine, you did it for me!” (Mt. 25:40). So in the final analysis the social works done by the Christians is service of mercy and compassion, truly a religious service. (Word 1048)
Changed On: 16-12-2017
Next Change: 01-01-2018
Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2017