Charity – The charity of Christ – Luke 10:25-37
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”
“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
The charity of Christ is the source in us of all our merits before God. Grace, by uniting us to Christ in active love, ensures the supernatural quality of our acts and consequently their merit before God and before men. The saints have always had a lively awareness that their merits were pure grace.
“After earth’s exile, I hope to go and enjoy you in the fatherland, but I do not want to lay up merits for heaven. I want to work for your love alone. In the evening of this life, I shall appear before you with empty hands, for I do not ask you, Lord, to count my works. All our justice is blemished in your eyes. I wish, then, to be clothed in your own justice and to receive from your love the eternal possession of yourself.” – (St. Therese, Story of a Soul) “
Christ has given us a share in his own life through death on the cross and Resurrection, and so we must be as Christs for one another and give in the same way. “To whom much is given, much is expected.” To those who call themselves Christian has been given more than to anyone else in the world.
“By charity, we love God above all things and our neighbor as ourselves for love of God. Charity, the form of all the virtues, binds everything together in perfect harmony (Col 3:14).” The charity of the Samaritan made him pleasing in God’s eyes, though to Jews he was a heretic and an outcast, judged condemned. The priest, a leader and holy man among the Jewish people fell short in God’s eyes, for he was without charity.
“Christ died out of love for us, while we were still enemies. (Romans 5:10) The Lord asks us to love as he does, even our enemies, to make ourselves the neighbor of those farthest away, and to love children and the poor as Christ himself. Why charity? To share in Gods life and love and thus be happy. Living the virtue of charity bears the fruit of divine love and a foretaste of heaven which is the state of perfect fulfillment and eternal happiness in the presence of the living God.
“The fruits of charity are joy, peace, and mercy; charity demands beneficence and fraternal correction; it is benevolence; it fosters reciprocity and remains disinterested and generous; it is friendship and communion: Love is itself the fulfillment of all our works. There is the goal; that is why we run: we run toward it, and once we reach it, in it we shall find rest.” (CCC 1829)
How is charity lost? God has given us free will, and therefore we must cooperate with his grace and freely choose to do His will. If we choose to break his law with sufficient reflection and full consent of the will, we loose the virtue of charity having sinned mortally. Venial sins weaken charity and can lead to mortal sin. Charity is our greatest gift and our greatest call. St. Pauls hymn on charity mught be the most beautiful in all of Scripture.
“If I . . . have not charity,” says the Apostle, “I am nothing.” Whatever my privilege, service, or even virtue, “if I . . . have not charity, I gain nothing.” Charity is superior to all the virtues. It is the first of the theological virtues: “So faith, hope, charity abide, these three. But the greatest of these is charity.” We must love all, including our enemies, and must pray for them or we are without charity and therefore without God’s love. Let us begin now the regular practice of prayer for our enemies as well as for those who love us that the doors of heaven may not be shut against us.
Our burden and privilege as Christians is to be held to the very highest standards of conduct in thought, word and deed: Christ Jesus Himself. We desire to live abundantly, that is forever, and only in Christ is found such abundant life. If we would live forever we must begin now to live in Christ and persist in this life until the end.
– – – reflection by Fr Abraham Muruppel