Charity and Love

Saint Berthold

Charity and Love

“And before speaking the word of resurrection to the dead at the end of time, he [Jesus] speaks the word of repentance to sinners now.”  (Note 1)

“…as Saint Augustine teaches us: ‘The soul is the life of the body, and God is the life of the soul.’ Just as the body dies when it loses its soul, so does the spirit die when it loses God.” (Note 2)

“Revenge resists the open-heartedness to which the gospel calls us.  Jesus, in these harsh terms [cf Jn 5:17-30], manifests the material character of God. … Forgiveness represents God’s tender side.  Tenderness is normally associated with feminine sensitivity.  God claims the feminine character for himself in a number of places in the Scriptures, as for instance, in Isaiah, ‘Even if a mother forgets the child of her womb, I will not forget you.”  (Note 3)

There are so many directions to go in thought today — metaphysics, theology, resurrection, teleology, parousia, metanoia — but I won’t.  Well, I might touch on metaphysics a bit — maybe.

We are souls – we are human persons who have a soul that is bonded with our flesh.  We were made in the image of God, and we were made to be in union with God.  Original sin took away the best part of the union, but we are promised that union again in the resurrection. I will admit I have to do more study on the resurrection and more study on judgment.  But, I don’t really want to get into those now.  We are beings with a soul, too many people deny that nowadays and see us as just better evolved animals.  They believe when we die, it is the end, our atoms and substance just scatter through the ground, other organisms consume our dead bodies and are in turn consumed by other organisms.  They have lost their souls not only in their thoughts, but in union with God.  They’ve hedged their bets and seek their reward in this kingdom, and then lose eternity when they lose the eternal bond with God.

As Christians, we have a responsibility to love them, anyway, and serve them, anyway.  Here in the west, it’s easy for us — our churches aren’t being blown up or desecrated, we aren’t being killed for being Christians, as is happening in our historic homelands.  But we have something much more insidious happening to us.  Our brothers and sisters are being martyred, and we’ve become like the church at Loadicea — neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm, and God will spit us out (cf Rv 3:14-17).  We rely on the government to tax our fellow citizens to provide the charity that we as Christians should be providing on our own, without government interference.  We clamor for the government to take care of the poor, the homeless, the indigent and healthcare, forgetting that providing these services by forcibly taking money from your fellow citizens is NOT charity, rather its quite the opposite — theft.  Not content to broadcast the light of the world, we debase ourselves to robbing our fellow citizens to expiate our guilt and provide for other citizens all the while calling it charity.  We see homeless people and we form committees and working groups to see how we can fleece our fellow citizens to ameliorate our guilt or to feel like Christians while doing exactly the opposite of what Christ would do.  The fishes and loaves were freely given by the boy, not impelled by Christ, and Christ used them to feed the multitude.  He didn’t form a committee or working group, he didn’t seek answers to why they were hungry or try to establish a tax scheme to collect money to feed them — he fed them.  No hesitation, no questions asked, he fed them.  The paralytic asked for healing — Jesus didn’t petition the government for a single payer health plan, he healed him.  Jesus performed corporal works of mercy with his own hands and heart, not through the institutions of the government, and not be fleecing his fellow citizens through tax schemes that amount to nothing more than theft and coerced participation — a very far cry from charity and love.  So, we’ve become like the church at Laodicea when we should be like the church at Smyrna (cf Rv 2:8-11).

We clamor for government to do more and more, and we, ourselves do less and less.  That is not charity.  It’s even less charitable when we realize that the works of mercy we wish the government to do, that the government empowers itself to do by fleecing its citizens, don’t really get done — but our political class taunts their efforts and blames the other side for failures, all the while growing richer and more powerful.  If we truly want to be charitable, we would strip these authorities from the government, regain our charitable natures and our love for our neighbor, roll up our sleeves and help them ourselves, just as Jesus did.  Jesus said, “if you love me, feed my sheep” (cf Jn 21:15-19), not force everyone to pay money into a system that does a half-assed job of it while making politicians and corporations more and more rich.

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. 

Where there is hatred, let me sow love; 

where there is injury, pardon; 

where there is doubt, faith; 

where there is despair, hope; 

where there is darkness, light; 

where there is sadness, joy.

O, Divine Master,  grant that I

may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; 

to be understood as to understand; 

to be loved as to love; 

For it is in giving that we receive; 

it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; 

it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.

—Saint Francis Prayer

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Notes:

1.  Jacques-Benigne Bossuet, Meditations for Lent, trans. Christopher O. Blum (Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press, 2013), 113.

2.  Bossuet, Meditations, 114.

3.  Thomas Keating, OCSO, “Can a Mother Forget Her Child?”.  In Renewing Our Discipleship, Daily Reflections on the 2017 Lenten Readings for Mass, ed. Steve Mueller (St Louis, MO: All Saints Press, 2017), 29.

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