By Rev. Martin Dunne III | Contributing Columnist
An August New Pelican article, “Humanity and Hostility,” demonstrated how absolutely nothing matters more than the Great Commandment. “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27). The end of Matthew chapter 25 makes it clear that while we are called to love God in all things at all times, the absolute best, most direct, way to God is to love our neighbor.
Matthew 25 shows us how to specifically love in action (feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothed the naked, care for the infirm, visit the imprisoned), but, even more importantly, how to love within those actions: “whatever you did for one of these . . . you did for me.” I see this as the way to overcome every roadblock to perfectly loving every person that comes across our path. Even if we can detect nothing redeeming in the person, we must always see within them God.
But St. Paul elaborated the most essential element of living Matthew 25 and thus fulfilling Luke 10:27: “If I give away everything I own . . . but do not have love, I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:3).
One of my early pastoral assignments over a decade ago was an operation distributing meals in the poorest neighborhood of Palm Beach County (outside of the Lake Okeechobee region; there the poverty is third-world). Getting to feed others required a great deal of logistics, coordination, and effort through the leadership of a World War II veteran who lied about his age to serve and defend our freedoms. When I commented how great it was to feed so many who wouldn’t have food otherwise, this tough-as-nails Marine said with genuine reverence, “It may look like we are handing out food, but what we are really handing out is love.”
All of my experiences echo these words, as sometimes the necessity most deeply longed for by others is companionship.
We are all called to do everything we can to help those in need. The current economy has resulted in more people in dire straits than in many years. Each person deserves as much help as possible by virtue of the dignity of their humanity. While it is important to help others by providing the necessities of each person through donations of food, money, clothing, toiletries, it is likewise important to do more to compliment those donations with help that could aid them far into the future.
For example, there are many (often un-availed) free programs which not only provide for the necessities of life, but also provide education, fast training for high-demanded jobs, interviewing skills, money-management, veterans assistance, and much more. Maybe some of you would be perfect volunteers for such programs.
The old proverb goes: “Give a fish, feed them for a day. Teach them to fish, feed them for a lifetime.” While I certainly acknowledge the proverb’s harsh oversimplification, the reality remains that we are called to help others for both their short-term as well as long-term needs. Charities receive upticks in donations before Christmas and Easter. That’s wonderful, but what about the rest of the year? As much as possible, helping others live with dignity all through the year is also an ideal way to glorify God.
At this time of unprecedented division, uncertainty, struggle, fear, distrust, hostility, smears, slanders, rage, and even hatred, what the world needs always, but now more than ever, are our actions of true love, which is ultimately infinitely greater than all the evils of the world combined.
Rev. Martin Dunne III is a Pompano Beach native and author of several children’s books along with the self-help book “What Could a Priest Know About Marriage?” He is an ordained minister for Holy Redeemer in Palm City. Prior to seminary, he spent a decade working in the “real world” and was active in several business and volunteer endeavors. Visit fathermartinbooks.com for more information on Rev. Martin and his books.
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