Service is a central aspect of Christianity. In the words of Ed Hahnenberg, “God calls me through others for others.”
But, as Hahnenberg’s phrasing suggests, we can never lose sight of the fact that our service is in response to God’s call, which means our service must be connected to our faith.
I’ve been reading Matthew Kelly’s Rediscover Catholicism, given to all members of parishes in our archdiocese. On this issue Kelly writes:
When the practice and preaching of Christianity are not clearly focused on the universal call to holiness, the activities pursued in the name of Christianity disintegrate into little more than a collection of social welfare initiatives. As the Church becomes more and more separated from this call to holiness, whether locally, regionally, nationally, or universally, it very quickly begins to resemble a social welfare organization rather than the great spiritual entity it was established to be for every age.
I was reminded, when I read those lines, of something Archbishop Chaput said at the CCMA National Convention last week. Questioned about the service component of our faith, he said that we can never to doo much social ministry. But, he cautioned, our service must be connected to the Gospel, that service alone can never substitute for the fullness of the Gospel.
There are three legs to the stool, Archbishop Chaput suggested of an “honest Christianity”: preaching the Gospel with integrity, building a community where people are genuinely loved, and helping the poor. If any one of those three is missing, Christianity is absent. The Archbishop was clear that people err in different directions. So it is not enough, he said, to say, “I’m Orthodox” alone or “I’m helping the poor” alone. We need all three legs of the stool.