CHARITY BEGINS AT HOME: A HOMILY ON THE MEMORIAL OF STS. CYRIL AND METHODIUS
Charity begins at home, but who says it must end at home? Today is the famous 14th of February, the memorial of Sts. Cyrial and Methodius, but also the memorial of St. Valentine. In the calendar of the Church, Sts. Cyril and Methodius take presidence, but in the secular society, St. Valentine is the big deal, because it is now considered a day to celebrate love relationships.
It is interesting that on a day like this, our first reading is from Genesis, where God had put Adam to sleep, and from his rib, created woman, and when he saw the woman he declared that she is the bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. This is the beginning of all love relationships. But when we read the gospel, we see Jesus almost sneaking into the house of a Syrophoenician woman. This is a core Gentile territory and Jesus is not even speaking with a Gentile man. He is speaking with a Gentile woman, which is worse. But through Jesus we begin to learn that charity begins at home, but should not end at home.
There are people we love in a special way, beginning from our parent to our siblings, to our very close friends, especially that special person you call your best friend, soul mate, etc. to our spouse and to our children. Of course, these people need our love before others, because of the special places they occupy in our lives. But it will be a shame if our love ends there. We learn to love our parent, so that we can learn to love God above all things. We learn to love our brothers and sisters, so that we can eventually grow into loving all people of every race, religion, nation, etc.
The Jews we closed in on themselves, but Jesus in our gospel today exorcised the daughter of the Syrophoenician woman. But before then, Jesus sounded cruel towards her by telling her that the food meant for the children cannot be given to the dogs. This is an insult, but it is true. If your child is sick for example, you cannot give the money meant for your child’s treatment to a total stranger by the roadside. That will not be love, because you have a primary responsibility towards your child. But on the other hand, just because that is true, does not mean you have no responsibility towards the stranger on the roadside. That is why the woman said, that even the dogs can eat the crumbs from the children’s table. She is telling us that charity begins at home, but it does not end at home.
Sts. Cyril and Methodius where missionaries to the Slavic people and they so mixed with the people that they helped to develop an alphabet for the people’s language. Yes, charity begins at home, but should not end at home. St. Valentine was a catholic priest, who was beheaded after having been beaten to death, during the reign of Claudius as Roman emperor. The emperor had prevented young men from getting married, because he felt that when they get married, they will no longer be focused in the army. St. Valentine was not happy with this and he would secretly perform marriage ceremonies for young men and women who wanted to get married. He was eventually discovered and killed.
Of course, every priest has a love that goes beyond his immediate family and friends. The heart of a priest is meant to love everyone. Of course, he will still have his family and friends, but in him should be the greatest manifestation of a love, which begins at home, but does not end at home. St. Valentine did not die for his family and friends. He died for young men and women who wanted to get married, even though the emperor forbids them from doing so. The very act of marriage means that we must leave our homes and look for someone from another home to get married to. Some people like to be so protective of their children that they prevent their children from relating to people outside. Eventually your children cannot marry you. It is good to teach them to be careful, but not to keep them away from people. As we phone our family and friends today, let us remember that charity begins at home, but should not end at home.