For all the brethren that were not at my first two Official visits, I would like to introduce to you the theme I have chosen for this year. The Main Theme is Opportunities. At Goderich we talked about ‘having a vision’; and in Carlow about the ‘light and darkness’ and tonight it is ‘Charity Benevolence and Relief’.
All speeches are aimed at having you think about of what opportunities we have to foster and make Cornerstones not only in our Lodges, but even more so in our lives – stronger cornerstones to carry all our life principles. Cornerstones are found at the base. If a cornerstone is weak or in the absence of a Cornerstone, any building, any organization or any life, will quickly fall apart.
‘Charity benevolence and Relief’
I start with a story from R.W. Brother E. Galt from Ontario District.
Once upon a time, a rich father, who had made all of the right financial decisions, thought that his 10 year old son should find out what it would be like to be poor and thus appreciate his luxurious life more.
The father arranged for his son to spend a few days in the country with a cousin whose parents had not made the same financial decisions and had few conveniences. When the scheduled time came for the visit to end, the father drove out to the cousin’s farm in the country. On the return trip his father asked his son what he had observed. His son replied “I can now appreciate the difference between those who are rich and those who are poor. Thanks dad for the opportunity to spend a few days with my cousin.” His father, rightly so, thought that this trip had been a great success.
The 10 year old son went on to comment on what he had seen. He commented to his father that their own pool only went half way to the back of their property but the stream in the country went for ever and you could catch fish in it any time for dinner. He went on to say that their lawn was only a few hundred feet long but the lawn in the country went to the horizon. At night we look up at street lights but in the country they get to see the stars. We have a wall around our property but they have friends who watch out for them, he said. Then he said to his surprised Dad “Dad why are we so poor?”
This Story points us in the right direction. Financial decisions and the relations to poor and rich is not always as we think it is, or it is perceived or more so advertised. The story quickly tells us that Money is not even half as important in life as we think it is. Money may be advertised in magazines, TV and internet as what being rich is. And the suggestions to buy all the stuff and things that we supposedly need are in today’s world unreal. Materialistic being rich does not mean a thing! Not to us as Masons and not to anyone who does not have much in the first place. I realize that, in my own life, when I go to our basement and garage and look around, the accumulation of stuff is dangerous. Sometimes I wish we would have to move into a 2 bedroom apartment with less space. Would I live? Would I be the same person? I think so – perhaps a better person because I do not need to look after repairs and property issues. It doesn’t matter what we have – as soon we buy something, we are doomed to look after and keep it up.
So, when we talk about Charity we need to have this thought in mind. Charity sounds good. We can give money to Charities. When we gave our dollars that we have at our disposal, we feel we have done something good. Think about the Candidate in the 1st degree who has nothing, but would give if he would have something. Not just disposable assets but real sharing. To dispose of money and get a tax receipt is honorable but yet we didn’t share. And yes indeed, money given through organizations to the ones that are in need is indeed important. The Masonic Foundation does wonderful things and is a necessity in our lives. Our district charity The ‘Jessica House’ Hospice is an important part of this area as are many others. Monetary contributions are needed. But when we give dollars, are we then done? Are we? No! Charity means so much more. It is way beyond the dollar. It is kindness, goodness, love, in Masonic terms – Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth. That part of charity that is not monetary is so much more important to our general lives than we ever think it is. There are many brethren in our organization and many more outside these doors that are suffering and we do not realize it. Many are living in shame for perhaps a wrong decision, for afflicted involvement or taking risks that they perhaps shouldn’t have, but thought they were doing the right thing, or because they got drawn in to other people’s issues. Then there are the health issues that many of us carry. There are those limitations that we have that place us in need.
Our free world tells us that everyone is responsible for themselves. Masonry tells us differently. It is not strengthening for us in general when poor and rich show a growing gap. That fact should actually worry and concern us. Our society outside the Lodge, often enough, tells us to put a blind eye to it. We need to understand that the market is not looking after the weak and the needy. No! The market is not a charity and, if not regulated strongly, the market can be -or is- immoral. That is the reality of the world in which we live. More so than ever, organizations like ours are called to point that out and help. Our organization is not just a charity but more. It teaches the morals of brotherly love, truth and charity. So – feel glad and lucky that you are a Mason and be reminded during your ritual work and during the course of your Masonic life, what the life’s principles are because little will you hear about it in your daily life outside the Lodge or perhaps in a church
That is why we should never ever step away from reflecting on the pureness of principles in life. The division between poor and rich is becoming bigger in the world of today. It is working on the cornerstone, making it smaller, making it thinner, putting holes in its base, and the cornerstone is weakening. In order to favour markets, it seems that the morality gets chipped away or turned to fit for the market’s advantage. The danger that we lose the ability to see the truth and the true love over time is too great! We need to find the true and pure morality. But it becomes harder and harder to find it. That’s why we have the opportunity to stand up and revitalize our hearts of love and truth, we need to stand up for the needy and the poor, the ones who do not fit in to the market. We need to be there, without assumptions and judgement, for the unloved ones and for the distressed. The ones that did fail or did make mistakes in life are the ones we need to help up again. We all are called to spend more time bringing brotherly love and truth to fruition – which then turns us into true charity, so we give with an open heart, not with a corrupted heart, not with a sour or bitter heart, or a jealousy heart. No, with a true loving kind heart. And kindness is nothing else than benevolence. Benevolence translated actually has nothing to do with money. No, it is to help support. Benevolence means the quality of being well meaning. Kindness in terms of the Book of Sacred Law is also called ‘grace’. The unconditional love. The Book of Sacred Law is full of benevolence, relief, truth and forgiveness. There aren’t just the 2 or 3 places we open up in there. The other parts that need to be read too. We are called in the First Degree’s charge to the new member to contemplate seriously the Book of the Sacred Law. Are we doing it? Did we? And is it the Koran, The Tora or the Vedas? All have the principles of charity and benevolence in common. That’s why Masonry works so well over the world, doesn’t matter what culture.
Perhaps we live in an environment that understands less what ‘kindness’ is. We are called to remind ourselves and our environment and show what we are able to accomplish. Then only…then only… will we create relief. And I am sure we all experienced relief when a matter that carried a burden to us, was resolved. Relief is then the reward. The relief to see our neighbour and brother doing better. The relief of the stress for one that is in difficulties after we can help. That is what makes us strong people. We cannot buy this kind of charity and benevolence. Imagine if we all of us here tonight and all people living in our environment could just do that. What an opportunity for us to build in ourselves a strong heart and mind and pass it on to others. How strong a society could we build? Our opportunity today is to first build a true vision with humanitarian goals. Secondly to bring light in to the darkness of lives and do not leave brethren in the shade. Thirdly, to bring charity, benevolence and relief to make us strong brethren and a strong Masonry that will have influence to build a strong society. The Great Architect of the Universe stands for Charity, Benevolence and Love. The G over the altar is exactly that – and only That!