Charity never falls away: whether prophecies shall be made void, or tongues shall cease, or knowledge shall be destroyed. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child. But, when I became a man, I put away the things of a child. We see now through a glass in a dark manner; but then face to face. Now I know I part; but then I shall know even as I am known. And now there remain faith, hope, and charity, these three: but the greatest of these is charity.” (St. Paul- Epistle to the Corinthians 1:12:31-13:1-13)
I took this from the Douay Rheims translation because it is a more literal one. It differentiates between charity and love because it is specific in meaning. Charity means the virtue and love can mean the virtue or the natural affection for some perceived good. Therefore, charity will always mean love of God or neighbor while love could mean love for a person, dog or pizza. As I speak here of love I will always be referring to charity.
I want to speak of our love for God. But first I want to ask why do we worship God, why do we give ourselves to Him, why do we give so much effort to doing what He asks of us, why do we obey the laws He gave us and why do we pledge fidelity to the Church He founded?
Well, there many disordered motives people have and they are too numerous to enumerate and most have to do with deep and profound wounds from parents who are our first God figures, and these create obstacles to the natural and truly good motive of love. But when love is our motive, it opposes disorder and orders all things to the good. Jesus says that perfect love casts out all fear and that love is not yet perfect in one who is afraid. Love gives us confidence in God, love trusts in God, love purifies intentions and motives and bad tendencies and if we persevere in love our love will become perfect, not on our own merit but God gives all help to those with a good will, as the angel told the shepherds, “peace on earth to men of good will.” Therefore, I do not need to fear all the possible imperfections or even bad tendencies that could be or could become part of my motives for doing God’s will or obeying Him or fidelity to a creed or religion, if I but persevere in love as my motive.
If I obey for love of Him, if I give my all to Him for love of Him, if I give up my will for love and trust of Him, if I suffer for love of Him, if I live a life of suffering, death and resurrection for love of Him, if I allow myself to suffer injustice, persecution, calumny, loss of reputation, loss of friends and material wealth, loss of health; if I choose with my free will to love my enemies, to pray for those who hate me and curse me, if I do all these things out of love for Him and not out of a passivity like a false victim, but with a fully aware conscious decision to sacrifice out of love for Him and not guilt or fear or self hatred, then my will, will not become disordered and only good fruit can come of it.
I know there are many reasons for people to distrust a give your all attitude for anything that is not purely spiritual, as men tend to corrupt things with their sins or at least obstruct the Holy Spirit with constricting strictures, allowing policy and bureaucracy to rule and govern instead of union with God, charity, and discernment based on the gospels. Without love fidelity becomes perfectionism, justice becomes severity, righteousness becomes self-righteousness, mercy gives way to being judgmental, a good and sensitive conscience turns self-condemnatory. In short one becomes a Pharisee, a person who’s goal is to keep the letter of the law with utter rigidity and who, without a personal and intimate relationship with God, ends up violating the heart of the law, which as Jesus says, is love and mercy. And when taken to the extreme, as in the case of the Pharisees of Jesus’ time, become envious persecutors of God Himself by persecuting those who are closest to Him, who have the intimate relationship that they do not have and who’s life itself is a constant reminder of what they do not have, and it becomes a sort of self-judgment projected onto the person they persecute. The result is a great dissatisfaction in the spiritual life. Because nothing can satisfy the human heart but love. An empty legalistic following of rules for the sake of following rules can only leave one with a bitter taste in the soul and a real sense that there is no salvation found this way. But when done out of love with one’s whole heart, and eventually and consequently one’s whole soul, mind and strength, it gives the person great satisfaction and peace of mind and heart.
Man was made for the total self gift which, as a creature, only he possesses the ability. And when he does this for the sake of love it is fulfilling, when he does it for any other reason it is not only not fulfilling but arid, empty and bitter. Not immediately, but over time this grows into a giant gaping hole in one’s heart and soul and leaves the soul feeling like there must be something more, something else that can lead me to happiness, to a sense of fulfillment, to a satisfying life of freedom of spirit and that feels life-giving instead of life-draining. Only since man was made by God for a life of union with God, in this life and the next, there is nothing else that can achieve this. Nothing else will give what this union with God can give. Other things can give us a feeling that satisfies us temporarily, but does not give lasting peace or freedom of spirit. Peace is a state of being, not a moment of non-conflict, and the good feeling that other things give us begin to fade away as soon as we stop doing them and they create a need to do something else that will give us that again. This happens when we try to replace a relationship with God with something or someone else. It becomes a cycle that is similar to adrenaline junkies who constantly have to find that next rush.
The answer then is to love and to seek to love, to ask God to increase His love in us. The more we experience His love, the more we will love. And it doesn’t matter if we are not very good at it right away, we will get better at it if we persevere in seeking a loving union with Him. We can not measure growth over short periods of time, but we can tell if we are more virtuous over a year or two’s time. Are we more patient, merciful, generous, selfless, willing to do good? Is our will less bent toward things that are harmful to us? Then we are progressing. Our good and gracious Father always gives help when we have a good will; our weaknesses do not repel Him or disgust Him. He even told St. Faustina that weakness attracts Him and that the greatest sinner has the most rights to His mercy. Then we have nothing to fear from Him who loves us infinitely for He truly loves us in the fashion mentioned by St. Paul.
Let us allow Him to love us fully, let us allow ourselves to love Him fully. And let us take this path of love unreservedly, for it can only bring good to us, good for us, and good through us. It brings peace to ourselves and the world around us. It allows the Kingdom of God to dwell in us, and through us to spread around us. Whose spirit doesn’t exalt with a man of peace near us and in whom God dwells. Who is not attracted to the light emanating from a soul who has an intimate union with God.
I love you Father and I give myself to you. Oh good Father, come to us and instill your Kingdom in us. Oh Father of all Mankind, Thy Kingdom come. Amen.
Br. Mariamartin de la Cruz SDBV General Steward