Taken from De Fide Catholica
“Deus caritas est ! – Man is not the source of charity. Only God is charity and the source of charity. When man wants to be charity for his brothers, he must ask God for this charity.”
Dear Brethren, when you want something, you usually go to the source of the thing you want in order to obtain it. Now, Father Jérôme reminds us of something that we already know but that we may forget too often. God is the source of Charity, because He is Charity.
We are now continuing our Lenten meditation on Christian perfection and we try to understand what, exactly, Charity is. Last week we contemplated its negative side, which is the hatred of sin. So now, let us consider what Charity truly is in its essence. The fact is, this is not such an easy thing to do. The reason for the difficulty we have in contemplating the true essence of Charity is that Charity is God Himself, we must acknowledge the deficiency of our intellect when it faces the immensity of the mystery of God. Then, we have to cast aside many prejudices and false concepts about Charity. So at this point, when I was preparing my sermon, I thought: “Well, what can I say now about Charity?” I was a little bit confused but finally I rested with thought that I simply needed to trust Saint Francis de Sales who spoke so well and so beautifully about the Love of God, because he just loved Him very much.
So, Saint Francis de Sales says that “the Christians of the early Church used to call each other brothers. Then, the first fervor cooled down and it has been decided that the Religious would be called brothers and sisters in order to show the sincere and cordial friendship they should have for each other. I say ‘cordial friendship’, which means that it has its foundation in the heart.” Then he explains that cordial friendship “is one of the main fruits of Religion performed by Charity. This union is such that it makes from many hearts only one.”
Thus, cordial friendship is not Charity itself but one of its main manifestations. It makes us see our neighbor “in the bosom of the Savior” as Saint Francis de Sales says. We have to see and to love our neighbor, whoever he is, “in the bosom of the Lord”. It makes all the difference between a true Charity and a natural love.
Natural love pushes us to love what brings a certain satisfaction and pleasure. When this satisfaction is sought for itself, it is indeed improperly that we speak about love. It is rather selfishness. Thus we have to cast aside our selfishness and to cast ourselves into the bosom of the Lord, so that we can love with His Heart. Saint Francis de Sales says that our neighbor, who is the one that we must love, is in the bosom of the Lord. I am know thinking of Saint John who put his head on the bosom of Jesus. What was he doing? He was seeking the love of God.
Dear brethren, if we really want Charity, we have to go to its source: Our Lord Jesus Christ. He can make our hearts malleable and shape it according to His good will, provided that we let Him. This work is delicate. It is often sorrowful, because it is a work of purification. The heart is very sensible and when Jesus touches it, you can feel a heat which can be painful. But then, when you are totally deprived of yourself and Jesus reigns in your heart, you feel only a peaceful and restful warmth. It is a great gain for those who accept this purification of the heart. They love God more than His consolations and they accept anything from Him. The others, the great majority, revolt or abandon. Their Charity is not perfect, because they prefer the consolations rather than the Cross. They are not in the bosom of Jesus. By refusing the grace of the purification of their hearts, they are in danger of losing the grace. Some might continue to practice their Faith but with no heart. They may do their duties and perhaps they do them well on a material level but Charity is no longer the principle of their actions. In fact, they try to fill in a lack of affection – the affection of the heart they don’t have for Jesus, with too much activism. They have to be busy, as if holiness consists of business. Then, they seek perfection in the achievement of their works, but, as we said at the beginning of Lent, this is not perfection, at least, not according to the Heart of Jesus.
Some others, because of a lassitude, even end up abandoning their duties of religion. They start by spacing out their confessions, then their communion, especially if they have committed a mortal sin. One day, they just leave the Church. God was not in their hearts, which makes religion a heavy burden. Be aware, brethren, that each one of us can be affected by this danger, lay people, priests or religious. Once again, if you don’t love in the bosom of Jesus, you cannot love as God wants you to love; you are not able to fulfill all the duties of our Religion that ,in the end, you disfigure.
Saint Luke, while speaking about the first community says: “the multitude of believers had but one heart and one soul.” One heart and one soul! This supposes attention to your brother. If we have such an attention to give, matured and improved by a true Charity, in other words, if we love our brother in the bosom of the Lord, the fruits are great: “with great power did the apostles give testimony of the resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord; and great grace was in them all.”
So, dear brethren, let us implore God to give us the grace of Divine Love. Let us ask Him to change our Hearts, so that we can practice a true Charity instead of trying to show it, perhaps, at time, with hypocrisy. As God is never fooled and truly knows the farthest corners and greatest depths of our hearts.
May Our Lady help us to accept the necessary purification that we need in order to increase our love and to love more perfectly.