.- Pope Benedict XVI says that Christian volunteer efforts should not merely be “an expression of good will” but should be “based on a personal experience of Christ.”
“He was the first to serve humanity, he freely gave his life for the good of all. That gift was not based on our merits. From this we learn that God gives us himself. More than that: Deus Caritas est – God is love,” he said.
The Pope made his remarks Nov. 11 at the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace. He was speaking to a group of around 160 Catholic volunteer workers from 25 countries who are in Rome for a two-day meeting marking the European Union’s Year of Volunteering.
The Pope told them that their experience of God’s generous love should “challenge us and liberate us,” to adopt “the same attitude towards our brothers and sisters: ‘you received without paying, give without pay.’”
For Catholics this is most clearly manifested in the Eucharist, where Jesus “brings together the vertical dimension of his divine gift” and the “horizontal dimension of our service to our brother and sisters.”
Christ’s grace received in Holy Communion, he said, helps us to discover “a human desire for solidarity and a fundamental vocation to love” within ourselves. It also helps “perfect, strengthen and elevate” that vocation so that we can serve others “without reward, satisfaction or any recompense.”
Today’s meeting – along with this week’s conference – was organized by the Pontifical Council Cor Unum. It is the Vatican dicastery that coordinates the Pope’s personal charitable activities.
Pope Benedict was keen to remind the group of the powerful witness given by Christian volunteers who serve as “visible instruments” of Christ’s love to a world “that still profoundly yearns for that love amid the poverty, loneliness, marginalization and ignorance that we see all around us.”
He also highlighted the Catholic roots of volunteering found in Christianity’s “concern for safeguarding, without discrimination, the dignity of the human person created in the image and likeness of God.”
This is something, he said, that Catholic volunteers should remember in order to avoid being “seduced by ideologies that want to change the world according to a purely human vision.”
“If these spiritual roots are denied or obscured and the criteria of our collaboration become purely utilitarian, what is most distinctive about the service you provide risks being lost, to the detriment of society as a whole,” he warned.
Pope Benedict brought his remarks to a close by challenging young people, who“readily react to the call of love.”
Catholic volunteers, he said, should “not be afraid to set before them a radical and life-changing challenge” to give of themselves. It is in living selflessly, the Pope said, “that we come to live life in all its fullness.”