Dear brothers and sisters,
Sacred Scripture tells us that “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.” Jesus said, “Do this and life is yours.” (Luke 10:27,28).
Our love for God must be expressed in our love for our neighbours, that is, our fellow men and women whom God created in His image and likeness, equally loved and clothed with human dignity, all members of one human family.
What does love of neighbour look like? Our Lord gives us two parables from the Gospel of Luke – often called the Gospel of the Poor – to illustrate.
Luke 10:25-37 tells of a priest and a Levite who saw their brother Jew lying injured on the ground after being robbed by bandits, but nevertheless passed him by without helping. It was a Samaritan who ultimately sacrificed his time and money to come to his rescue, even though Jews despised Samaritans.
Luke 16:19-31 is the tale of a rich man who dressed and feasted magnificently every day, oblivious to Lazarus, a poor man who destitute at his gate. When both died, the rich man was sent to Hades while Lazarus was carried into Abraham’s embrace. When the rich man begged for mercy, Abraham replied that there was too great a gulf between them (Luke 16:26).
In both parables, the wounded man and Lazarus were the poor, both in wealth and spirit. Today, as Jesus predicted, we still have the poor with us (Matthew 26. 11). How will we respond to their plight? The rich man, the priest and the Levite responded with indifference and a lack of charity while the Good Samaritan was moved with compassion and love.
The Church has always held a preferential option for the poor because the cries of the poor - for their basic needs for food, shelter and protection, and for a voice in shaping the societies they live in - often go unheard or unheeded. Pope Francis pointed out in his encyclical letter Fratelli Tutti (On Fraternity and Social Friendship) that paradoxically, in today’s increasingly connected world, “the sense of belonging to a single human family is fading... What reigns instead is a cool, comfortable and globalised indifference.” (FT 30).
The Holy Father exhorts us to imitate the Good Samaritan as “men and women who identify with the vulnerability of others, who reject the creation of a society of exclusion, and act instead as neighbours, lifting up and rehabilitating the fallen for the sake of the common good,” rebuilding their communities and restoring their human dignity. (FT 67)
The Lord has blessed us so that we may share His blessings with our brothers and sisters in need, not only those sitting at our ‘gates’ in Singapore, but also with those overseas, displaced from their homes and suffering in the wake of natural or man-made disasters and other humanitarian crises.
In past year, CHARIS has disbursed over S$1.8 million towards various causes like the emergency relief efforts for the South Asian floods, responding to the humanitarian crisis in Eastern Europe, providing access to clean water, sustaining education, supporting ecological projects, and more. With the evolving global situation, such needs are expected to continue to escalate in the coming years.
We are called to bridge any geographical, political, economic, cultural and religious ‘gulfs’ that separate us by sharing our resources with compassion and fraternal love, and by listening and walking in solidarity with them on their journey of life.
Brothers and sisters, I pray that you may respond generously to CHARIS’ annual appeal for their Humanitarian Aid Fund, supporting them and their member organisations in their humanitarian work and disaster relief efforts. Our Lord said, “It is by your love for one another, that everyone will recognise you are my disciples.” (John 13:34-35) Let us be obedient disciples, loving neighbours and Good Samaritans for the glory of God and His Church.
“What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has the eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.”
✠ William SC Cardinal GOH
Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore