William and Kate attended a star-studded charity dinner for Ark – Absolute Return for Kids as their first official engagement since their wedding.
While what the duchess wore captured the usual attention (“a shimmering nude gown by Jenny Packham”) it was the sentiment that took them to the Ark Gala that captured mine.
The duke announced a joint venture between Ark and the Foundation of Prince William and Prince Harry.
Prince William said he, his wife and brother wanted to use philanthropy as a “catalyst for meaningful change”.
Ark sponsors academy schools in the UK and programmes for disadvantaged children around the world.
Acknowledging the privileged education and upbringing he enjoyed, the Duke of Cambridge said, “So many young people do not have these advantages and as a result can lack the confidence and knowledge to realise their full potential.”
This comment carries forward the theme of the sermon preached at the Royal couple’s wedding: “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”
Their actions also fulfil the prayer prayed by the couple during the wedding ceremony:
“God our Father, we thank you for our families; for the love that we share and for the joy of our marriage. In the busyness of each day keep our eyes fixed on what is real and important in life and help us to be generous with our time and love and energy. Strengthened by our union help us to serve and comfort those who suffer. We ask this in the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Amen.”
Let’s pray with them that they can maintain their generosity, not just with a needy world, but with each other and with God.
As for philanthropy, it was first coined in Ancient Greece in the play Prometheus Bound, possibly by Aeschylus. In the play, when it is suggested primitive humans should be destroyed by the gods, Prometheus dissents and due to his philanthropos tropos or humanity-loving character gives them the gift of fire and optimism.
Fire represents knowledge and technological achievement and optimism it was thought would guide humanity to use their knowledge in a positive manner.
Interestingly, Prometheus is chained to a mountain and eventually plunged into an abyss by an angry Zeus because of his earlier gift to the humans. Perhaps there is a lesson in that to do good is not without its challenges.
Jesus also showed a passion for human potential and spoke of three loves – love God, love yourself and love your neighbour.
But he also recognised that potential and philanthropy and human achievement is not enough on its own, as surely history as shown. He recommended a relationship with God through his own selfless life, death and resurrection as the true seal on a life well lived.
“But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.” John 1:12-13 NLT
To truly become we need to belong in relationship to the One who designed us.