Sermon for Quinquagesima Sunday by Fr Laurent Demets, FSSP
Unless you have the audacity of the Protestants to deny the teaching of Saint Paul, there is no way of compromising: Charity is absolutely necessary. Without it, even Faith is useless. It is clear and without equivocation.
Faith is a very necessary virtue, but in a certain way, it has a certain imperfection. As such, it cannot be an end in itself. Saint Paul says that we see now through a glass in a dark manner. In a dark manner! There is still a part of darkness in Faith in spite of the fact that it gives us the light of God. This darkness does not come from God but from our intellect which is limited and first of all, corrupted by sins. Faith gives us a true knowledge which excludes any doubts, but this knowledge is very little in comparison to its object: God Himself. What we know about God by Faith is true but it is still just a part of a greater and incommensurable truth. Faith is a virtue for pilgrims on the road. They want to see their goal but they have not reached it yet. They are motivated by pictures of it they have seen or by testimonies they have heard, but they haven’t seen it yet. They are still en route, but not yet at their destination. Faith is necessary but just a transitory virtue. As such, it cannot be the perfection of Christian life.
Charity is higher, according to Saint Paul, and I would say, according to very good common sense. It is the only theological virtue that will remain in Heaven. One can have Faith without charity but it is impossible to have charity without Faith, at least on earth, since in Heaven there will be no more Faith, but beatific vision. Faith makes us understand who God is. Charity makes us like God. As Pope Benedict XVI said at the very beginning of his encyclical letter, " God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. These words from the First Letter of Saint John express with remarkable clarity the heart of the Christian faith: the Christian image of God and the resulting image of mankind and its destiny. In the same verse, Saint John also offers a kind of summary of the Christian life: We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us."
Charity is the heart and the essence of our Faith and of our lives. It is good to hear this just before Lent, dear Brethren. Because our holy exercises of Lent, which are of necessity even though the Canon Law now orders almost nothing, have to be inspired by a true love of God. If it is not the case, they are nothing as Saint Paul reminds us. You can fast 40 days, sleep on the floor 40 nights and give up whatever you want, if you don’t do this for the love of God, it is absolutely useless and even stupid. We are disciples of Jesus Christ and not of Epictetus or Zeno. Well, I have to recognize that we are more inclined, by nature, to make ourselves disciples of Epicurus rather than of Epictetus, but we can also be proud enough to seek a certain satisfaction by mortifying our flesh for vain reasons. Anyway, we are neither stoical nor epicurean but Catholic. Our Master is Our Lord Jesus Christ and our rule of life, Charity. That is all we need.
And we have a beautiful example to imitate: Our Lord Jesus Christ during his Passion. In today’s gospel, He reminds us of the sufferings he would have to endure for us. Do you see other reasons for the fact that God decided to become a man to suffer and to die, than love? Without love, the Incarnation and the Redemption are absolutely incomprehensible. Why? Why did Jesus suffer and die? Because, God loves us. He could satisfy justice without the Redemption. But He wanted to satisfy it and to show more love.
So we are the disciples of a God of love. The essence of our religion is love. It is great and beautiful. But it is also terrible in a certain way, because every time we are not faithful to the demands of love, we are traitors and liars. We betray Jesus Christ by refusing his love and we lie to the world by acting against charity while we proclaim our belonging to the Catholic Church. And this lie is also a scandal when it is committed in front of witnesses.
So dear brethren, the consequences of our sins, especially against charity, are certainly greater than we can imagine. But the consequences of our acts of charity are also greater than we can imagine. Do you know the good you can do by doing even a little act with a pure love of God? Saint Therese of Lisieux became such a great saint just by doing every thing for the love of God. We can do it too! We just have to act at home, at work and everywhere with charity. By doing this, we show to the world that we are true disciples of Jesus and that we can really make the world better. And it is so easy to do it! But we have to give up first another love, which is not so good: our selfishness! Well, that’s good, because Lent is coming soon. What a good opportunity we have now!
Let us ask Our Lady to help us to increase our love for God. She cannot refuse such a demand.