The Pope’s missionary intention for July is that “Christian volunteers in mission territories may witness to the love of Christ.”
The United Nations declared 2001 the International Year of Volunteers, and on this occasion Blessed John Paul II expressed his gratitude for all of those who dedicate their lives to the poor. He said:
Thanks to the many forms of solidarity and of service that they promote and make concrete, volunteer workers make society more attentive to the dignity of the human person and his/her many expectations.
… Dear Brothers and Sisters, who make up this "army" of peace spread over the face of the earth, you are a sign of hope for our times. Wherever situations of hardship and suffering appear, make bear fruit the hidden resources of dedication, goodness and heroism in the heart of the human person.
Making myself the spokesman for the poor everywhere, I want to say "thank you' for your steadfast dedication.
In his message, the late Pope explained why it is that volunteers dedicate their lives to others. It is “the innate movement of the heart,” he said, “that inspires every human being to help his fellow man.” Have you ever felt that rush of joy after helping someone in need? Well that is natural, John Paul II said, because it is in giving that we reach perfect fulfillment.
That “good feeling” is not why we serve, though. We serve because Jesus did when He walked the earth, and we serve because God calls us to do the same. We serve because the fruits of our charity bring justice and peace to mankind, and we serve because every human person deserves to be loved. We serve because our charity is a form of evangelization, introducing others to Christ.
Without this purpose, without grounding in Truth, volunteerism is shallow. Pope Benedict XVI argues that it can even be dangerous:
Without truth, charity degenerates into sentimentality. Love becomes an empty shell, to be filled in an arbitrary way. In a culture without truth, this is the fatal risk facing love. It falls prey to contingent subjective emotions and opinions; the word “love” is abused and distorted, to the point where it comes to mean the opposite.
Today, many people believe that the poor deserve access to free contraceptives and abortions—a “love” that ends lives. Others believe that the battle for same-sex unions is much like the battle for civil rights—a “love” that distorts the beauty of marriage. Without truth at the foundation of our society, “love” is indeed beginning to “mean the opposite.”
“Only in truth does charity shine forth, only in truth can charity be authentically lived,” Pope Benedict said. “Truth is the light that gives value and meaning to charity.”
May we have Christ’s truth in our hearts when we serve others, and let us pray with Pope Benedict this month, that Christian volunteers may witness to the love of Christ.
Our Lady Queen of Peace, Pray for Us.