Worship Through Charity

“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these 
brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
Matthew 25:40

What do you think of when you hear the word “worship”? Do you think of going to church? Of participating in — or, at the very least, observing — such a liturgical event? Or something else entirely?

When I saw the theme of this year’s Advent devotional — “as worship to you” — I got to thinking about different things worship can mean. Merriam-Webster.com offers 2 options: “reverence offered a divine being or supernatural power; also : an act of expressing such reverence,” and “a form of religious practice with its creed and ritual.” But these definitions — this idea of worship being merely an act of revering some divine being or attending a church service or Mass — seems to me to fall short, or at least be too limiting.
These definitions also seem to emphasize verbal worship. I believe there is yet another option: silent, charitable action.
I have a friend who is going through a very rough time. I didn’t even know how rough until recently when she confided in me and 2 other friends about her predicament and the drastic action she felt she had to take to try and rectify the situation. While I did try to offer words of support and comfort, they seemed to fall short. Finally, when we had to leave each other, I asked her if I could give her a hug. I felt, at that point, that it was the very least I could do. She said yes, and we spent the next few minutes in a strong embrace. It was my last gesture of love in that encounter.
A few days later, I read an e-mail from her. She did not comment on any of the words I said, but on that hug. She indicated that this “simple,” wordless act of charity — a hug — had been the most important thing I had done.

Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”

In Matthew 25:31-46, the King (Christ) invites those into the Kingdom who attended to his needs. Those turned away ask, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?” To which the King replies, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
While I am not saying everyone should shun religious practice, I do say that silent, and vocal, works of charity towards all people — friend and foe alike — can in and of themselves be important as acts of worship.

Andrea D. La Vigne
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