The rich young man in the Gospel expressed pride in abiding by the Commandments, but Jesus asked for a generous spirit. The Commandments form the moral foundation of all that we do. Charity and generosity—in its countless forms according to our respective vocations—fulfill the justice of the Ten Commandments, just as the Cross of the New Covenant fulfills the Ten Commandments of the Old Covenant.
Zeal for God’s Commandments may provoke a generous fighting spirit. In the Books of Maccabees, pagan occupiers issue decrees forbidding Jewish religious practice, forcing the violation of the first three Commandments. Mattathias sparks a revolt against the evil Greek empire. Refusing to worship the Greek gods, he kills a Hellenistic Jew who steps forward to offer a sacrifice to an idol, and he flees with his five sons to the Judean wilderness. After the death of Mattathias, his son Judas leads an army of faithful Jews to victory in guerrilla warfare. The Maccabees destroy pagan altars in the villages and restore Jewish worship. Eventually defeated by the numerical superiority of the Syrians, foreign occupiers – including the Romans during the time of Jesus—are forever reluctant to force the Jews into false worship.
Generosity needs God’s favor and grace. The famous Battle of Lepanto took place on October 7, 1571, when a coalition of Catholic states (comprising Spain and most of Italy) inflicted a devastating defeat on the Turkish fleet in the Gulf of Patras. In just four hours, more than 40,000 men died, and thousands more were wounded, more than in any other battle in history. Never again would the Muslim fleet pose a grave danger to Europe from the south.
For months, Pope Pius V had urged Catholics to say the daily rosary on behalf of the morale and good fortune of the Christian forces and, above all, for a successful outcome to the risky preemptive strike against the Turkish fleets. After the glorious victory, the Pope declared October 7 the Feast of “Mary, Queen of Victory.” A later Pope added the title “Queen of the Most Holy Rosary.” The Battle Lepanto marks the last significant sea engagement in the Western world and stalled the Muslim threat to Christian Europe until recent decades.
But when generosity—or its counterfeit, disguised self-interest—is cut loose from the moorings of the Ten Commandments, it becomes dangerous. Examples abound.
In 1913, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. incorporated a group that became a significant force in supporting birth control clinics and played a pioneering role in the modern field of population studies. As early as 1922, the Rockefeller Foundation sent money to fund German eugenics. Of Germany’s 20-plus Kaiser Wilhelm Institute science centers, Rockefeller money built or supported three. The centers made their mark for medical murder under the Nazis. Among them was the Eugenics Institute. It listed its 1935 activities as follows: “the training of SS doctors; racial hygiene training; expert testimony for the Reich Ministry of the Interior on cases of dubious heritage; collecting and classifying skulls from Africa; studies in race crossing; and experimental genetic pathology.” (See the 2004 Human Life Review essay “The Long Road of Eugenics: From Rockefeller to Roe v. Wade”, by Rebecca Messall, for more details.)
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation professes the commitment to “tackling the greatest inequities in our world.” But their primary interests focus on controlling global population growth through contraception, sterilization, and abortion. The multi-billion-dollar George Soros “Open Society Foundations” aims to build “inclusive and vibrant democracies” and “fighting poverty, disease, and inequity around the world.” But his support of subversive causes—including the pro-abortion “Catholics for Choice”—is notorious. If there is any question why so many of us distrust our medical institutions, we need to look no further than the influence of these billion-dollar influence peddlers.
Ideological manipulation, disguised as generosity—without the moral compass of the Ten Commandments—undermines institutional trust and threatens civilizations.
There is a commonly neglected type of generosity available to all of us, and it only costs 55 cents, the price of stationery, and our concern and intellectual effort. Old fashioned letter-writing has become so rare that the significance of one signed letter, sent by first class postage, is likely to hit its mark. (A couple of years ago, I wrote a letter to a long-lost parishioner, now a high-ranking government official. When our paths crossed months later, I learned to my delight that he had read the letter.)
The letters can be friendly and supportive or angry and resistant. But brief one-page notes—carefully written—can effectively break through the iron curtain of technology and grab attention. Invoke the Holy Spirit when writing (but don’t blame Him if you misfire). Never be abusive or threatening. Every letter should have the Ten Commandments as its foundation. Be honest and earnest, but leave the success of the letter up to God. Always sign your letters. At the very least, we can hope to disturb the conscience of the recipients for the Day of Judgement.
Some dismiss letter-writing as time wasted on insignificance. True, we should always do more. (Monitor polls, for example!) But everybody knows the difference between junk mail and a personalized letter. We always read and react to a person lurking behind a first-class stamp.
The movie classic Schindler’s List depicts the real-life war profiteer Oskar Schindler’s efforts to save Jews targeted for extermination by enlisting them into slave labor factories. At the end of the movie, as the camp was about to be liberated, the workers present Schindler with a ring engraved with a Talmudic quotation: “Whoever saves one life saves the world entire.” Schindler is both touched and ashamed, feeling he should have done more.
We will never know the effect we have, but try we must. Abiding by the Ten Commandments is just the beginning. On the foundation of the Ten Commandments, we must erect the Cross of generosity and never give up.
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