CHARITY – Meditations – by Father Richard F. Clarke, S.J.
- What is charity? It is an infused virtue, by which we love God for His own sake and above all things, and our neighbour as ourselves for the love of God. It is the best gift that God Himself can give, the gift compared with which all other gifts are insignificant and valueless. It is the end and aim, the perfection and crown of the Christian life. If we possess it we have all things; if we possess it not, we have nothing; we are miserable and wretched and poor and blind and naked before God. Pray that God may teach you to know and to love His Divine gift.
- Charity is called an infused virtue, because we can only obtain it if God shall please to pour it into our soul. No amount of practice can make it ours. No natural benevolence will develop into charity unless God adds that supernatural character which alone can render it pleasing in His sight and meritorious of eternal life. We must carefully distinguish natural from supernatural charity, and beware of being satisfied with the former.
- Charity is also one of those virtues which are called Christian virtues, inasmuch as their model and type is the Life of Christ upon earth, because they unite us to Christ and make us like to Him. It is true that this is in itself pre-eminently the Christian virtue, and when St Paul says, “Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans xiii. 14), he refers alone to the virtue of charity with which we must be clothed if we are to be the servants and followers of our Lord. How far can I say that I am clothed with charity so that all around me see it? Do they not too often detect in me a lamentable want of this virtue?
- Charity is primarily a love for God and a love of friendship, which is the highest kind of love. All true friendship implies that the love exists on both sides. Men are not friends unless each of them possesses and recognizes the love of the other. If we are really the friends of God, we shall recognize His love, and find in all that happens to us a proof of His love and friendship, not complaining or wishing that He had acted otherwise, but being fully convinced that He never does anything or permits anything which is not intended for our good. Until we do this our friendship is a very imperfect one.
- Friendship also requires that we declare our love to God. He knows it already, and the exact degree in which it is present in our hearts; but He likes to listen to our assurance of the love we bear Him. Our love is prone to wax cold unless it finds expression in words, and it is a pleasure to those who are close friends to make known to each other their mutual sentiments of friendship. God does not spare in His written Word to give us the strongest assurances of His undying love to man. Do we in return assure Him of our grateful love to Him, the best and dearest friend we have in Heaven or on earth?
- Whatever words we use they cannot surpass God’s messages of love to us. He says that if a woman can forget the son of her womb, He will not forget us. (Isaias xlix. ‘i.) That He loves us so dearly, that He spared not even His own Son, but delivered Him up for us (Romans viii. 32), and therefore can refuse us nothing that we ask for. (St John xvi. 23, 24.) What have we to say to Him, as a counterpart of loving words like these?
Charity is also a love distinguished by the complacency or pleasure that it takes in the welfare of him who is its object. Let us apply this to the supernatural charity that has God for its object.
- It takes pleasure in thinking of God’s infinite perfections. It rejoices in His unapproachable majesty. The
- Charity also thinks with complacency of the homage paid to God by angels and by men; of the honour He
- Charity, moreover, rejoices exceedingly in the honour done to God whenever a sinner is reconciled to Him.
- By love of complacency we take a personal pleasure in the good of our friend, by a love of benevolence we
- 2. This love of benevolence also includes a feeling of grief and sorrow whenever we hear of anything that is an
- Charity, moreover, requires that we shall not be satisfied with a mere feeling of good-will. Our benevolence
- Although God chooses out of the world those on whom He sets His love and for whom He destines the rich
- It seems almost a matter of course that every sane man should choose Him who contains all perfections in an
- Our Lord tells His Apostles: “You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you.” So God has chosen us rather
- Charity does not exist within the soul of anyone who does not love God above all things. If some created
- This, however, does not mean that we must needs have a stronger feeling of love for God than for some
- This supreme love of God includes a conviction that God is our best friend, and therefore He will never ask
- Charity is a love of God for His own sake. In its perfection it banishes self altogether. It does not advert to
- Yet if “charity begins at home” and we necessarily as rational beings seek what is good for ourselves, how is
- Do those who have this charity in their hearts seek at the same time the eternal blessedness of Heaven?
If charity really promotes our highest interests, and even in its most disinterested form ministers to our good, how is it that it is so often placed in contrast with self-love?
- When we speak of self-love we do not mean that true love of self that is identical with charity, but we mean
- But self-love does a still more mischievous work. It leads us to thrust ourselves into a position which we
- Self-love, again, cannot endure any sort of reproof or correction, it rebels against it and longs to revenge
- “If I have not charity I am nothing.” These are the words of Holy Scripture written under the inspiration of
- Moreover, unless there is at least an initial element of charity in our actions, they will not help us in any way
- Even if we have the habit of charity and are in a state of grace, our actions are not meritorious before God
- The spirit of charity is none other than the Holy Spirit of God, the Third Person of the Ever-Blessed Trinity.
- It is from and through the Holy Spirit that the Charity of God is imparted to us. The Charity of God is
- Charity is also mentioned as the first and foremost of the fruits that the Holy Spirit causes to ripen in our
- 1. We have seen that charity must influence all our actions if they are to be meritorious in the sight of God. But
- One thing we must never omit: to offer our actions to God when we rise in the morning. We should make
- But this single offering can scarcely continue to have any controlling power over our actions unless it is
- “Charity is patient.” Patience consists in supporting without murmuring or complaint, injuries, hardships, illtreatment,
- There are some persons to whom patience is specially difficult in every form. Active, energetic, eager
- Patience, like all the virtues, brings its own reward. How much the impatient suffer when checked! How
- “Charity is kind.” All appreciate kindness and are drawn towards those who are kind. Even natural kindness
- Natural kindness is a sort of foundation for supernatural kindness, but the two are very distinct from each
- If we are kind to others for God’s sake, He will be kind to us in our turn. Yet our kindness must not have any
- “Charity envieth not.” Envy is the vice that grudges to another his happiness, liberty, riches, or success, or
- Envy is a vice that utterly destroys the peace of him who harbours it. He is always uneasy, and he unites the
- How different is the spirit of charity! It takes pleasure in the pleasure of others, it rejoices in their success,
- “Charity does not deal perversely.” Perversity generally results from an overwheening self-love. We all
- Opposed to perversity is docility in those who obey, and reasonable conduct in those who have to act for
- Charity includes all possible reasonableness and docility. No one can ever accuse it of eccentric action, or of
- “Charity is not puffed up.” One of the great dangers of prosperity is that it so often produces a fatal
- How does charity prevent this self-conceited pride and arrogance? It would seem as if humility were the
- We are not likely to arrive at a true estimate of ourself unless others treat us as we deserve. How are we to
- “Charity seeketh not her own.” In all the affairs of life men may be divided into two classes; those whose eye
- What is the test of this spirit animating my life? Not zeal, for there is a zeal which is nothing but a disguised
- Yet this is not enough. I must not be satisfied with a general willingness to obliterate myself, especially
- “Charity is not provoked to anger.” One of the strongest instincts of human nature is the instinct of selfdefence.
- The instinct of self-defence is always prone to mislead us on account of our excessive self-love. We fancy
- How is this evil to be remedied? By charity and nothing else. If God were more prominent in our hearts, if
- “Charity thinketh no evil.” We are all surrounded by those of whose actions we are continual witnesses and
- Why is this? It is because I am so full of faults myself that I see many faults in others. It is the reflection of
- How do men judge who are imbued with the spirit of charity? They think no evil, that is, they never attribute
- “Charity rejoiceth not in iniquity.” Anything that offends God is necessarily a source of sorrow to the
- The saints would gladly have given their lives to prevent sin being committed. It was an intense pain to them
- Above all, the saints feared and dreaded any sin in themselves. They avoided with the utmost care anything
- “Charity rejoiceth in the truth.” Everything that is done to promote the cause of truth is a source of sincere
- Charity also finds a pleasure in the truth being known. It has no wish to conceal anything. Those who have it
- Do I again rejoice in the truth when I find that I have misjudged or misunderstood my neighbours, and that
- “Charity beareth all things.” If there are any who deserve to be exempt from suffering, it is those who are full
- Yet after all it is reasonable that the charitable should suffer when we remember that the Lord and model of
- These sufferings are a source of joy to all who suffer for Jesus’ sake. He rejoiced as a giant to run the course
- “Charity believeth all things.” Faith is a preliminary gift of God without which charity is impossible. No one
- Charity, while it believes all things that God has revealed, is the reverse of credulous. It is the bitter enemy
- Charity supplements faith and it strengthens it. The stronger our love of God, the stronger will be our belief
- 1. “Charity hopeth all things.” How common and how fatal an evil is discouragement! Half of our enterprises
- 2. Yet it is no easy thing to keep up our courage and our hope. We so often fail, and failures are discouraging.
- How then are we to keep up courage and to be always hopeful? The only chance for us lies in our keeping
- “Charity endureth all things.” The test of our love for anyone is what we are willing to endure for him. If we
- We all of us should esteem it a great privilege if we were called upon to lay down our lives for the Faith. But
- If I have true charity, I shall take all with joy. There is nothing that I have endured which I would not
1. “Charity never falleth away.” We are all anxious to persevere to the end. We know that without perseverance all else is of no avail. Of what use was it to the Israelites, who for their sins perished in the desert, to have escaped from Egypt and safely crossed the Red Sea, and toiled for years over the sandy plains? What use to Solomon to have been dear to God and endowed with supernatural wisdom, if, as some think, he did not persevere to the end? So all our graces are of no avail, but rather tend to our condemnation, if we in the end fall away and are lost. Yet who can be certain of perseverance? Who does not tremble at the thought of his own insecurity? We may have great gifts, but they will not save us; talent, activity, zeal, courage, prudence, will be useless to us. Even faith will not save us—the devils believe and tremble— and hope may degenerate into presumption, or may disappear and leave us at the last to an eternal despair. How then are we to be safe? One thing alone never falleth away. One virtue alone will carry us unharmed through every danger. If we have in our hearts that supernatural gift of God which fears nothing so much as to offend Him, then we are safe. Faith may grow dim, all sorts of doubts may present themselves to our minds; hope may seem to have disappeared altogether; all may look black and dark, but if we can say from our hearts that with God’s help we would do or suffer anything rather than offend Him, then we have in our hearts that supernatural charity which unites us to God and ensures our entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven, “for Charity never falleth away.”
We love Him because He first loved us.” Perfect charity loves God for His own sake independently of any thought of ourselves. But perfect charity is preceded and accompanied by a charity which has at least an indirect reference to ourselves. The love of God first springs up within our hearts because of the love that He has shown to us. We think of all that He has done for us, and we recognize therein a clear proof of His love. Love begets love, and we cannot help being drawn towards One who has thus gratuitously manifested towards us a charity to which we owe all that is really precious in our lives, and all the good gifts that we possess. How then can we fail to be attracted towards Him who has shown such love to us? This love of gratitude is not the same as the love of concupiscence, nor as the pure love of friendship. It most resembles the latter, and always enters into it. Without some sort of gratitude friendship would be mere admiration; the personal element necessary to love would be wanting. When a Saint dwells with rapture on the Divine perfections, there is always present to his mind a remembrance of all that God has done for him. Do I ever recount to myself with gratitude all that God has done for me? This element of charity is present in the charity of the saints in Heaven. Their song will not only be: “We give Thee thanks because Thou has taken to Thyself great glory and has reigned,” and also “because Thou hast redeemed us to God in Thine own Blood.” This is the song I must seek to sing in my heart here on earth: “Thanks to God first for His great glory, and then for His goodness and love to me.”
“Charity shall cover a multitude of sins.” 1. One of the characteristics of charity is that it always looks to the bright side of things. It seeks to bring out all that is good respecting others, and to conceal their sins. It does not notice them; it never alludes to them unnecessarily, whether they are committed immediately against man or against God; it has a happy knack of forgetting them or seeming to forget them. It covers them from the eyes of men, and even seeks to obliterate them before God by the prayers it offers for the offender. Is this my spirit? Do I not rather cover the virtues of others, and disclose their faults? In this respect it is especially true that we shall be treated as we treat others. “With what judgment you judge, you shall be judged,” says our Lord. If we pass on others the severe sentence of harsh criticism, our sentence will be severe. If we make little of their faults and much of their virtues, God will do the same to us. What utter folly to prepare for ourselves a harsh verdict at the tribunal of Christ by our condemnation of others. Charity shall on the other hand cover a multitude of sins. If we have been always men of charity, it is wonderful how God will seem to have forgotten our many sins. The poor whom we have helped will pray for us; those whom we have comforted in sorrow will say kind things in our behalf, and our charitable judgment of others will find its counterpart in God’s judgment of us. Our sins will be concealed so as to disappear under the mantle of our charity. Is my charity such as thus to cover my sins?
Among all the Divine perfections charity is the only one with which God our Lord absolutely identifies Himself. We do not read in the Word of God that God is power, or God is wisdom, but we do read, and this not once only, that God is charity. (i St John iv. 8, 26.) God therefore desires that this aspect of His Divine Nature should be continually before our minds, that we should dwell on His love to us more than on any other of His attributes. When God appeared on earth, it was but natural that the perfection most characteristic of His Divine Nature should manifest itself most clearly through the veil of His Humanity, that among the qualities acquired by His Sacred Humanity from the Hypostatic Union, the foremost should be that with which He most completely identifies Himself. Who can study our Lord’s life on earth without recognizing above all His unbounded charity and the intensity of His love for us? We notice another phase of this love in Jesus Christ which helps us to confidence in the love of God. His charity was above all a charity to sinners. He had a sort of preference for them, they were His friends and companions. He sought them out, and His charity to them knew no bounds. How clearly from this we learn the true nature of God’s charity to man. God loves sinners now, He has always loved them and will always love them as He loved them when on earth. What confidence I ought to derive for myself from this thought, and what charity and commiseration for others!
“The Charity of Christ surpasseth all knowledge.”—(Ephes. iii. 19.) In what did the Charity of Christ consist? (1) In an infinite self-abasement for our sakes. From the Throne of God He humbled Himself to the form of sinful man. (2) In a sacrifice of Himself which passes all comprehension, He gave up the infinite joy of Heaven for the sufferings of this valley of tears. (3) In the endurance of mental and bodily agony, of desolation and dereliction, one moment of which would have crushed the life out of the strongest of men. Try and realize those familiar truths, and see what a contrast your life is to His. What are the chief points of contrast? (a) Christ humbled Himself for the good of others; I seek to exalt myself at their cost. (b) Christ gave up His life of perfect happiness that He might make others happy; I am willing to sacrifice little or nothing, my aim is to make myself happy, not others. (c) Christ endured unspeakable agony to save men from the agony they well deserved. I, on the other hand, complain of the least discomfort, and as to giving up my joys and pleasures for others, and enduring misery for their sakes, I would not even think of it. Yet I consider myself a good Christian and talk glibly about treading in the footsteps of Christ. I expect to be admitted to Heaven as one of His friends and followers. What will He say to me when I present myself? Will He recognize in me any likeness to Himself; any vestige of His Divine Charity? O my God, I must be very different from what I have been if I am to present myself with confidence before Thee as one whose charity is like to the Charity of Christ.
Some virtues there are that will not enter into the door of the Celestial Paradise, inasmuch as they imply some sort of imperfection in the nature of him who possesses them, or the circumstances among which he lives. Such are faith, hope, prudence, &c. But one virtue there is which is not only welcome in Heaven, but reigns there supreme. The very atmosphere of Heaven is nothing else than an atmosphere of charity. It is to the saints and angels the very breath of their life, it is the light that enlightens the celestial city. When we read that the glory of God enlightens the Heavenly Jerusalem and that the Lamb is the light thereof, St John is speaking of that charity with which God has identified Himself, and which shone amongst men in Christ our Lord. Each saint in Heaven will shine with a radiance proportioned to his charity, and will enjoy happiness, the extent of which will be commensurate with his charity. When I shall be judged by the standard of charity shall I be found fit for Heaven at all? Charity is moreover the Queen of Heaven, and therefore may be identified with our Lady, who, next to her Divine Son, was its earthly ideal. This is why she is the Mother of Mercy, and why we fly to her protection in all our troubles. She reigns supreme in Heaven, and her sovereignty is due to her charity. This is why she is the most powerful of all our intercessors, the most loving, the most compassionate, the most tender, the most full of pity for sinners. To thee then, O Mother of Charity, I will fly, and will beg of thee to obtain for me from thy Divine Son more and more of His unspeakable charity.