"Nothing is sweeter than charity"
(Mother Teresa of Calcutta)
We are celebrating the ninth “International Day of Charity”, established by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2012: a UN tribute to the life of Mother Teresa, which sums up the beauty of charity and poverty, to “contribute to the promotion of dialogue between people of different cultures and religions, as well as solidarity and mutual understanding” (source: resolution A/RES/67/105) and to encourage gestures of charity and beneficence, through education and activities to promote and raise awareness.
Canonised on 4 September 2016 – four years after the UN initiative – when Pope Francis had invited us to: “Take peace with you to give it to others with your life, with your smile, with works of charity. Saint Mother Teresa, pray for us!“.
Charity is at the heart of every religious belief
In Christianity: Charity, united with the other theological virtues, is the instrument for achieving happiness. Through charity man realises the commandment of love left by Jesus Christ.
“Then one of the scribes who had heard them argue approached, and seeing how well he had answered them, he asked him, ‘What is the first of all the commandments?’ Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Listen, Israel. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. And the second is this: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. There is no other commandment more important than these” (Mark 12:28-31).
It represents love towards God and others: it realises the highest perfection of the human spirit, as it simultaneously reflects and glorifies God’s nature. In its most extreme forms, charity can reach self-sacrifice. Pope Benedict XVI has written an encyclical dedicated to charity, entitled Deus caritas est.
In Judaism: One of the main commandments of Judaism is “Love your neighbour as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18), sometimes called the Great Commandment. In Judaism, charity is considered a form of justice.
In Islam: the Qur’an and the accounts of Muhammad’s life emphasise that charity is an obligation for every Muslim. One of the pillars of Islam is therefore compulsory almsgiving, called zakat; alongside this, there is a voluntary form of charity called sadaqa.
In Buddhism: compassion (called karuna) is considered a fundamental virtue. It is not simply identified with empathy, i.e. participation in the suffering of others, but must lead to taking an active role, performing actions to alleviate that suffering. Compassion stems from benevolence towards others (called maitri) and is realised through generosity (called dāna) which, however, must not be limited only to the material aspect (such as giving alms to the needy).