Helping the Weak

We have received a holy mandate to be concerned about the faith and spiritual progress of others.
by Lorraine E. Espenhain | Source: Catholic.net

Christianity was not intended by God to be a warm and fuzzy religious experience to be enjoyed by us as we live our lives in utter isolation.  We have received a holy mandate to also be concerned about the faith and spiritual progress of others as well.

In his first letter to the church at Thessalonica, St. Paul instructed the believers as follows: "Help the weak..." [1 Th 5:14]. Three simple words, yet, all too often many of us fail to put them into practice in our lives.

In using the word weak, St. Paul was not referring to those believers who were physically weak in their bodies. Rather, he was referring to those who were weak in their faith.

The weak may also refer to those who were being bombarded by hardships or temptations and needed loving brothers and sisters to stand alongside them in order to sustain them.

It is noteworthy that St. Paul here urges the Church in general and not just the leaders to care for the rest of the congregation. Whether we want to accept this principle of Scripture or not, the truth is there before us: you and I have a responsibility before God to assist others in their walk with Him.

It’s easy to only focus on our own spiritual progress and journey without concerning ourselves with our brother’s faith in Christ, but God’s Word challenges us to do otherwise, doesn’t it? While this certainly isn’t a license to be intrusive and meddlesome in people’s lives, the truth remains that we are called by God to be concerned about the spiritual welfare of others.

The Lord has given each of us gifts, talents, skills, and abilities to be used by Him in building others up in their most holy faith. It’s up to us to draw close to Him, yield our lives to Him, and find out exactly how He desires to use us in those gifts so that others might be spiritually edified. 

Some are gifted to write, teach, sing, or work with children. Others are gifted to lead and organize, while some are gifted in areas of hospitality and serving. The list goes on and on. No one has come into this world without being divinely endowed with a gift or talent. No one.

When we make our walk with Christ the number-one priority in our lives, we do well in the sight of Christ. But when we also take the time to minister to others because we are concerned for their spiritual welfare as well, we do even better. The Lord wants us to be involved in each other’s lives. He wants us to care about one another. As we draw closer to one another, we become aware of needs and situations that we would never have known about otherwise if we had chosen to remain cut off and isolated from each other.

Christianity was not intended by God to be a warm and fuzzy religious experience to be enjoyed by us as we live our lives in utter isolation. We have received a holy mandate to also be concerned about the faith and spiritual progress of others.

The Lord has placed all sorts of people in our lives: children, grandchildren, spouses, siblings, co-workers, fellow believers, neighbors, etc. What are we presently doing to reach out to them in order to show them the love and concern of Christ? In what way are we helping those who are struggling in their faith? There are many things we can do to help others in their walk with Christ, especially those who may be going through a difficult time. We can spend time praying for them. If they are a shut-in, we can visit them and spend time encouraging them in the Word of God. We can pick them up and take them to Mass if transportation is needed. We can call them up on the phone in order to share an encouraging word. The Lord may inspire us to purchase a Bible, a book, a CD, or other item that proved inspirational and helpful in our own lives when we were going through a difficult time ourselves. If someone in the church loses a loved one, or is home from the hospital recovering, we can bring a meal to them. If we hear that someone is going through a difficult time, a few encouraging words sent in an e-mail can do much to bolster one’s faith and let them know that someone out there cares.

When I was still living in Philadelphia, every Friday night I would visit one of the widows in our church. I would bring a coffee cake, she would make coffee, and we would encourage each other in our faith for several hours. Before I left, we would pray together. This woman suffered greatly from depression. My visits to her home every week encouraged her greatly and gave her something to look forward to.

In our apartment community there is an older man who lives all by himself. He’s been away from the Catholic Church for many years now. Nobody ever comes to see him. Each Sunday he looks out his window and sees me going to Mass. He’ll wave, and then turn away from the window to go back to his television watching. From time to time, I’ll make up an extra platter at dinnertime, wrap it up, and send my husband to his apartment to give it to him. I do this because I want him to know that there are people who care about him. I want him to know that Catholics do more than just attend Mass.

The ways are endless in which we can be used by Christ to help those who are weak and struggling in their faith, but it’s up to us to make ourselves available. It’s up to us to care.

In your time with God in prayer, ask Him to open up your eyes to the spiritual needs of others that are all around you. Every day I ask the Lord to give me the heart of Christ for humanity. I want to see people through the eyes of Christ. I don’t believe it is possible for us to truly love people the way Jesus wants us to unless He gives us His heart.

When Jesus saw people, He was able to look beyond their actions to see the genuine need in their lives. I want you to think for a minute about the way you feel about certain neighbors, family members, or co-workers who make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. I use myself as an example in this regard. About a year ago, a young man in the Air Force moved into my apartment building. To say that this man was mean-spirited, nasty, violent, and unkind is an absolute understatement. Each night would find him outside his door, drinking wine, belching, smoking cigarettes, and using the community grills as a spittoon.

Once inebriation set in, he would then call up people on his cell phone and proceed to scream, yell, and curse at them at the top of his lungs. It mattered not to him that he was standing outside his door when doing this, nor was he concerned with the hour of the night. At times, I would look outside my window and see him slamming his cell phone against the door while he screamed and yelled at the person on the other end of the phone. If he had a girlfriend over, he would get angry at her, throw her out of his apartment, and proceed to scream and curse at her from the window of his living room while she walked to her car in the parking lot. Once, when he saw me looking at him through my window, he showered me with a litany of colorful and descriptive adjectives which left me picking shrapnel out of my self-esteem for the next two weeks.

Before the Lord began to deal with my heart, I must confess that my attitude toward this man was far from ‘Christ-like.’ I found his behavior repulsive. If I saw him bringing a girlfriend into his apartment, I would say to my husband, "No woman should be that desperate."

One morning, after a sleepless night due to the racket this man had made the night before, I went before the Lord in exasperation and pleaded with Him to remove this ‘messenger of Satan’ from the apartment community. As I continued to pray, the Lord began to deal with me about my attitude toward this man, and I had to repent, for I was not following the example of Christ.

When Jesus saw people, He looked beyond what they did and saw the reasons behind their behavior. He saw their spiritual needs. In St. Matthew’s Gospel, we read as follows: "When Jesus saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep with a shepherd." [Mt 9:36]. Jesus was able to look beyond the physical realm in order to see the spiritual reasons behind people’s actions, and if we are going to love others as He commands, we must be willing to do the same.

Another example of this can be found in St. John’s Gospel, where we see Christ sitting at a well, tired and thirsty from His journey. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, the Lord asked her for a drink. The woman was surprised, for Jews and Samaritans despised each other and did not associate with each other let alone help each other out. The woman said to Christ, "You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?" [Jn 4:9].

If you were in Jesus’ sandals, how would you have responded to this woman’s hesitation to show decency to you in your time of need? Your tongue is sticking to the roof of your mouth, and the woman in front of you is more interested in discussing and perpetuating the religious divisions between Jews and Samaritans instead of mercifully tending to your need.

Jesus saw beyond this woman’s actions. Instead of focusing on the fact that this woman didn’t seem to be too concerned about His physical thirst, the Lord saw her own spiritual thirst. "If you knew the gift of God and Who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water." [Jn 4:10].

Helping those who are weak and in need demands that we follow the example of our Lord in looking beyond the physical in order to see the spiritual.

My former neighbor acted as He did because he was enslaved and captive to sin. He needed to be rescued so that he could turn from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to the power of God. I was only focusing on his physical behavior. Because I was not following Christ’s example in looking beyond the physical to see the man’s spiritual need, I did not love him or minister to Him as Christ demanded.

It is very easy for our humanity to get in the way and cause us to stumble in this area, and many of us do. But Christ our Lord is challenging us to draw near to Him and to learn from Him, that we might become more like Him in His love and compassion for others.

When dealing with the weaknesses of others, ask the Lord for His heart and mind, lest you respond to those weaknesses in your ‘flesh’ rather than in the Spirit. Also, when we step out to help others who are weak or struggling in the faith, we need wisdom from God when doing so. Otherwise, our efforts may be seen as intrusive or meddlesome. If you notice that a fellow parishioner hasn’t been to Mass in a month, sending them an e-mail informing them of their need to repent is not the way to minister to them.

According to the Lord Jesus Christ, the greatest commandment is as follows: "love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." [Mt 22:37]. But the same God who gave us this commandment has also commanded us to "love your neighbor as yourself." [Mt 22:39]. This is the second greatest commandment. To the extent that we are living out the first greatest commandment is to the extent we will live out the second greatest commandment.

Beloved, we are called by God to be concerned about the spiritual welfare of others. When we see them struggling or growing weak in their faith, we must reach out to them with the love of Christ to assist them in their spiritual journey. Our relationship with Christ cannot be separated from our relationship with others. To focus on the one while neglecting the other is an incomplete love and an incomplete faith. Nowhere in the Scriptures has anything incomplete ever been acceptable and pleasing to God.

May God give us the grace to listen to what the Spirit is saying and to apply this truth to our lives so that our love for Him, as well as our faith in Him, may be deemed acceptable, pleasing, and most of all...

...complete.

 



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Published by: williemae
Date: 2009-01-01 10:00:00
i am so thankful for this article it was very helpful just what i was looking for.God bless you and your staff.Although i am not Catholic we can certainly learn from one another.again thanks

Published by: williemae
Date: 2009-01-01 10:00:00
i am so thankful for this article it was very helpful just what i was looking for.God bless you and your staff.Although i am not Catholic we can certainly learn from one another.again thanks

Published by: williemae
Date: 2009-01-01 10:00:00
i am so thankful for this article it was very helpful just what i was looking for.God bless you and your staff.Although i am not Catholic we can certainly learn from one another.again thanks

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