Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Love of Neighbor (Lenten Meditations Part 2)

Second Point

The virtue of charity or love that we must have for our neighbor is something very noble and holy – so much so that it deserves to be practiced for what it is in itself. But there are some other very powerful motives for it which neither pride nor self-love can resist. How deeply people would be moved if they would reflect upon them!

The trouble is that people do not reflect on them, and therefore we see the world in wretched condition, without charity or love for neighbor, since there is no one who ponders the powerful motives for practicing this virtue. We will proceed, then, to meditate on them. There are the following:

(1) Charity is commanded by God – and this is itself an adequate motive – You ought to know, my soul, that after loving God above all things we must love our neighbors as ourselves, even if he be our enemy. Maybe self-love or pride will object, but the ready answer is: God commands it; and if an enemy does not deserve to be loved, God does deserve to be obeyed, and for love of God and out of the obedience we owe Him, we must love our enemies.

(2) The second motive is human nature itself – There is a principle which says: Every living thing loves its own kind. To live is to desire and strive for someone’s good. Hence we must strive for the good of one another. We all form one moral and social body, since man by nature is social. Thus, as members of the same body we ought to strive for the good of one another, just as we see is done by members of a physical body.

(3) Being Christians, we are taught by religion that we are all brothers – that we all have a common Father, Who is God, and a common Mother, Who is Blessed Mary, and that the greatest pleasure we can give Them is to love one another like good brothers. We have a common Redeemer and Advocate, Who is Jesus Christ. We are all created for the same end, which is Heaven. We all have the same commandments to keep and the same Sacraments to receive and the same truths that we must believe. We must put our hopes in the same promises and fear the same punishments.

(4) We are disciples of Jesus Christ – Who, by word and example, taught us this very important truth, and has done so with such earnestness and insistence that He went so far as to say that we know whether we are His disciples by whether we love one another as He has loved us; and He adds that whatever we do to our neighbor, He takes it as something done to Himself.

To emphasize the importance of charity, He reveals to us a wonderful truth. He told us that when He shall come to judge us at the end of the world, He will glorify and reward those who have loved and served their neighbor as if they had done this to Him. But as for those who have not loved and helped their neighbor, He will disgrace them and publicly take them to task as though they had refused this love and help to Himself, and finally He will condemn them to eternal fire.

(5) The motive of good order – Even if this love had not been commanded by the Lord, one ought to love one’s neighbor because of a need for it. Take a good look, my soul, at what happens in a home or town where there is no love of neighbor or fraternal charity, or where people do not love one another as brothers.

Oh, dear God! What disorder! What confusion! It seems more like a hell than a home or community…God withdraws His graces and blessings from it and leaves the people to themselves, and they become playthings of their passions; they do nothing good and are apt to do much evil – turning to rash judgments, suspicions, hatred, grumbling, fights, scandals, and many other great evils.

That is why St. John says that one who does not love his neighbor as he ought, is dead. God is so fond of this love or charity that He is named Charity, and where charity is, God is, and there is peace and happiness. But where there is no charity, there is no peace nor tranquility, laws are not kept, Commandments are not observed, obligations are not fulfilled, virtue is not practiced, temporal goods are wasted, diseases afflict people, death is hastened, and the soul goes to hell after having suffered greatly in this world.

Affective Acts

I know that charity is such a necessary virtue that without it there can be no society. I am quite convinced that I have the strongest reasons to practice this virtue. Therefore, with God’s help, I will practice it as much as I can.

(to be continued...)

"Perhaps the greatest charity comes when we are kind to each other, when we don’t judge or categorize someone else, when we simply give each other the benefit of the doubt or remain quiet. Charity is accepting someone’s differences, weaknesses, and shortcomings; having patience with someone who has let us down; or resisting the impulse to become offended when someone doesn’t handle something the way we might have hoped. Charity is refusing to take advantage of another’s weakness and being willing to forgive someone who has hurt us. Charity is expecting the best of each other." - Marvin J. Ashton, The Tongue Can Be a Sharp Sword

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