One summer in the village, the people in the town gathered for a picnic. As they leisurely shared food and conversation, someone noticed a baby in the river, struggling and crying. The baby was going to drown! Someone rushed to save the baby. Then, they noticed another screaming baby in the river; and they pulled that baby out. Soon, more babies were seen in the river and the townspeople were pulling them out as fast as they could. It took great effort, and they began to organize their activities in order to save the babies as they came down the river. As everyone else was busy in the rescue efforts to save the babies, two of the townspeople started to run away along the shore of the river:
“Where are you going?”, shouted the rescuers, “We need you here to help us save these babies!”
“We are going upstream to stop whoever is throwing them in!” - unknown author. Catholic parable
This catholic parable is a prime example of our need for both charity and justice. As Christians, followers of Christ, we are called towards both and we are to be charitable and to love justice. The townspeople initially saw one baby in the river flowing down and jumped in to save the baby and in doing so they found that there were many more babies in the river. The babies kept in coming and the townspeople addressed the immediate need, they pulled the babies out of the water. They started to work together, organizing, to make sure they were able to pull all the babies in out of the water, this is charity. Charity is seeing an immediate need and addressing it for individuals.
At the end of the parable, two of the townspeople got out of the river and stopped addressing the immediate issue and started to run upstream. Everyone around them seemed confused by their action. There are still babies that are in the river that need to be saved, to be pulled out and rescued! Their response is justice, seeking an end to the need to rescue the babies, to find who is throwing them into the river.
As followers of Christ, as the church, we are to engage in both charity and justice. We are to see the immediate needs that people have and address them, hunger, human trafficking, homelessness, fatherlessness, drug addiction and the list goes on. We are called to jump into the river and pull people to safety. While some are offering the charity, others need to be running up the riverbank and seeking to bring an end to the injustices of hunger, human trafficking, homelessness, fatherlessness, drug addiction and so forth. You see we are not only called to feed the hungry, but be agents of restoration of all. The gospel is no just good news of heaven in the future, but that the present can also be restored through the work of the community of God, the kingdom of heaven in the here and now.
The townspeople did not see the problem until they looked up from their picnic and from their time and looked out into the river. Once the entered the river they saw the vast problem at hand and together they sought charity and justice. We know of the needs in our community, do we turn a blind eye and allow babies to be swept down the river? Or, do some of us jump in and address the immediate issue and others run upstream and address the cause?
If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them – James 4:17