For each month of the year the Holy Father chooses a specific prayer intention. Pope Francis’ prayer intention for December is for voluntary organisations and charities; so, this month we give thanks for volunteers, those who give selflessly and generously of their time to help others.

As the Holy Father says, “Charity is at the heart of the Church, it is the reason for its action, the soul of its mission”.

In giving without hope of reward we can each mirror the sacrifice of Christ who surrendered Himself for humanity so that we might be saved from sin.

Fr Victor Darlington is the Episcopal Vicar not only for this part of the Archdiocese but also for Caritas within Southwark. Caritas is the network of charities, manned predominantly by volunteers, who do such wonderful work helping those in need. You may remember that Fr Victor visited us at the beginning of October and indeed made an appeal for volunteers.

Celebrating this generosity of spirit is especially appropriate in December, where we celebrate Christ’s birth by exchanging gifts with one another. Just as the Magi presented the infant saviour with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Our first and second readings this Sunday share a theme of abundance, the fruits of the earth are bountiful, God is generous and it His generosity that we are called to reflect with our own generosity towards Him and to our brothers and sisters. Giving of our material goods, but also of our talents and our time. There are so many ways to help others, both large and small. There are so many ways to help build up our parish community by being generous with our time. As we continue our process of parish renewal there is one common theme that has become apparent across each area of focus, we simply need more people to help. With more volunteers we can achieve so much in the areas of:

  • Welfare, Safeguarding and Pastoral Care
  • Marketing and Communications
  • Social, Welcome, Events and Fundraising
  • Liturgy and Spirituality
  • Formation and Education

If everyone in our parish could contribute just a small amount of time to each of these areas we could achieve so much, and truly become a Christ centred community. There have been many wonderful suggestions about things that we could do to further our mission, but without willing volunteers these ideas cannot flourish. In recent weeks there have been appeals for more flower arrangers, and for people to open the shop after each Mass. To be honest the responses have been disappointing and without that practical support we cannot build our community and fulfil our mission.

In the painting the Allegory of Charity, from the Prado Museum in Madrid, charity is represented as a young woman who looks at us with a challenging gaze; in her right hand she holds the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a heart which literally burns with love for humanity. Do our hearts burn with the same love? Charity challenges us to respond to the poor just as Christ did.

Advent is a penitential season, and each of us is encouraged to examine our conscience as we prepare spiritually for our saviour’s birth. We could each perhaps, as part of that examination of conscience, reflect on the contributions that we make to parish life, to charity, and to the wider community, and consider whether we could each do just a little more, demonstrate just a little of that generosity of spirit.

The Kingdom of God is ours to build. In the words of St Teresa of Avila, “Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”

Deacon Ray