Homily on the 8th Knights of Columbus National Convention
April 17, 2010
Lahug, Cebu City
Theme: Volunteerism: Neighbors helping Neighbors
Most Rev. Nereo Odchimar
Bishop of Tandag
Let me begin my homily with a story.
One day, a poor boy who was selling goods from door to door to pay his way through school, found he had only one thin dime left, and he was hungry. He decided he would ask for a meal at the next house. However, he lost his nerve when a lovely young woman opened the door. Instead of a meal he asked for a drink of water! She thought he looked hungry so brought him a large glass of milk. He drank it so slowly, and then asked, How much do I owe you?"
You don't owe me anything," she replied. "Mother has taught us never to accept pay for a kindness." He said ... "Then I thank you from my heart." As Howard Kelly, that was the boy’s name, left that house, he not only felt stronger physically, but his faith in God and man became stronger also. He was about to give up and quit.
Many years later that same young woman became critically ill. The local doctors were baffled. They finally sent her to the big city, where they called in specialists to study her rare disease.
Dr. Howard Kelly was called in for the consultation. When he heard the name of the town she came from, a strange light filled his eyes. Immediately he rose and went down the hall of the hospital to her room. Dressed in his doctor's gown he went in to see her. He recognized her at once.
He went back to the consultation room determined to do his best to save her life. From that day he gave special attention to her case. After a long struggle, the battle was won.
Dr. Kelly requested the business office to pass the final bill to him for approval. He looked at it, then wrote something on the edge, and the bill was sent to her room. She feared to open it, for she was sure it would take the rest of her life to pay for it all. Finally she looked, and something caught her attention on the side of the bill. She read these words ...
"Paid in full with one glass of milk"
Dr. Howard Kelly.
Doing one great virtue doesn’t always require us to do great things. Sometimes, we only need to offer a glass of milk, but offering it with great and generous heart. This itself drafts a beautiful story.
Generosity and volunteerism are elements of charitable acts closely linked to each other. Etymologically, the word “volunteer” has its Latin root “voluntarius” an adjective which means “lesser.” If I may point it out directly, “to volunteer” therefore means to be “lesser.” Essentially, a man who volunteers and is generous thinks less for himself but shows great heart for others. Volunteerism is a disposition of the heart that always looks after the good of others rather than the self. It may be doing the simplest act in utter generosity.
In this season of Easter, the Lord’s greatest act of love still lingers fresh in our memory His ordeal from Gethsamane to Calvary reminds us of the greatest act of generosity and volunteerism—shown by His unreserved pouring out of everything that he has. At that point when somebody has to defend the truth of the Gospel, Jesus has to come out in the open and proclaim it, even though the prize is death on the cross. Jesus chose to confront the hypocrites and the Roman officials in favor of the oppressed. He entered Jerusalem and volunteered to die for the kingdom. With this, Jesus takes us back to His ultimate challenge especially among those who wish to follow him. “Greater love has no one than this, that he lays down his life for his friends (John 15:13).” This time, not even less was left of him because when the Lord gives, He gives it all,“he pours out the best wine to the last drop.”
Throughout the year, the theme “Volunteerism: neighbors helping neighbors” serves as your guiding principle perhaps in your benevolent efforts to help our nation recover from different forms of crises. In these times when what we can mostly observe around are violence, poverty, injustice, and hunger due to graft and corruption and political ineptitude, we are compelled to actively participate in the works of social transformation. The 2010 Election is an opportunity we cannot afford to miss. Despite apprehension of rampant electoral fraud, let us not remain hiding in the dark shadow of fear, of selfishness, and of momentary pleasure. We are challenged to come out in the public and volunteer in any sort of activities that aims for the common good. We can share our talent, time, and treasure voluntarily in achieving Clean, Honest, Accurate, Meaningful, and Peaceful Elections.
These noble works of extending our hands for our neighbors relevantly responds to the call of the church as expressed by Pope Benedict XVI in His encyclical letter Deus Caritas Est “Love of neighbor, grounded in the love of God, is first and foremost a responsibility for each individual member of the faithful; and a responsibility for the entire ecclesial community… As a community, the Church must practice love…The awareness of this responsibility has had a constitutive relevance in the Church from the very beginning [in the first Christian community] : “All who believed were together and had all things in common; and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need” (Acts 2:44-5).”
When our Lord Jesus Christ ascended into heaven, he did not leave us a fully healed and perfect world. He gave sight to the blind without necessarily taking away all blindness; blind people are still with us. He healed the sick without taking away all infirmities; today there are still sick people in our hospitals and in our homes. He fought for justice and peace without eliminating totally oppression and violence. Why so? Perhaps because, he wants to leave us something to work for as his disciples. He wants us to take an active part (if not to volunteer) in His work of transformation and redemption.
God has left us a fitting model of volunteerism. God saves us not because He is obliged to do so, but because of love and generosity. God does not need man in order to be happy; as God He is already perfect. It is man who needs God to be made whole again. One of the parting exhortations Christ gave to his disciples was to love one another as He loved us. If Christ’s love should form the basis of the manner we have to love each other, we may ask; “How did Christ love us?” The answer is: “Under the spirit of sheer volunteerism”
Our gospel today narrates Jesus’ serene walking on the water while his disciples were distressed by rough waves because a strong wind was blowing. Jesus assured them saying “don’t be afraid it is I.” And immediate the boat made it safely to the shore. To love voluntarily, at some point, means to take up your own share of the cross. It is about sharing in the redemptive suffering of our Lord. This may trouble us severely but Jesus assures us of his faithful friendship. “Don’t be afraid, I am with you.” Amen.
+NEREO P. ODCHIMAR, DD
Bishop of Tandag