Taken from De Fide Catholica
“Charity is a friendship and not an interested love.” This truth is now well ingrained in our minds, so let’s continue on further and let us consider the qualities of this particular friendship, still by following the teaching of Saint Francis de Sales. And he says first that “ it is a true friendship, because it is mutual.”
I personally think that we should think more often about the idea of reciprocity between ourselves and God. We, too often, consider our relationship with Him to be a relationship between a servant and his master or a subject and his king. It is certainly true, because we truly are the servants and subjects of Jesus Christ, Our Lord and our King. But this notion does not reflect the entire reality of what Charity is. Loving one’s master or one’s king is good, but you rarely hear speaking about friendship for a master or a king. Yet our love for God has to be a true friendship, and this makes a huge difference. You probably have many acquaintances and you probably know many people that you like and who’s company you enjoy. But how many true close friends do you have? Probably just a few, because a true friendship supposes a certain close intimacy and that you cannot have with everyone.
A friend is someone that you love, that you trust, for whom you are ready to make any sacrifice in order to help if he has need. It is a person with whom you can speak frankly and discuss everything, even when you don’t agree and when the subject brings controversies. A true friend is present in your mind, in your heart, in your prayers. Our Lord Jesus Christ should be one of your friends, and the best one.
Saint Francis de Sales explains that “it is a friendship of dilection, which means of election. It is incomparable to any other and it is really eminent and supernatural. It is like a sun in a soul which embellish it with its rays and perfects all its spiritual faculties.” Thus, a soul that loves God with a true Charity is totally enlightened by Him. Charity, indeed, is not only a particular virtue, but also a general virtue which shines on and illuminates all the others. There is a practical consequence: “love gives perfection to all our works.” It is not the action itself which brings us perfection, but the love we put to our actions. Saint Francis de Sales explains when he says that suffering a little thing with two ounces of love is better than suffering martyrdom with only once ounce, because “Charity and love give a price to everything.”
Remember what we said in our first sermon about Christian perfection. Christian perfection does not consist in a multitude of actions, prayers and penances. It depends upon the love we have when we commit them. For that reason, charity is the supreme good of a soul. As such, it should be our most desired good and we should go to its source to obtain it.
We said last Sunday that its source is God Himself, because He is Charity. Now, we need to be more precise. How can we find God, or rather where can we find Him? The best place is certainly the place where He shows the greatest love, which is Calvary. It is good to turn our minds toward the Calvary during this Passion time. There, we can see Charity in its most delicate expression. We can also see the effects of sin by contemplating the sorrows of Jesus torn by the scourge of our iniquities. On Calvary, the purity of Divine Love meets the atrocity of human pride.
Saint Francis de Sales says: “ The Son of God is now on the Cross: What put Him there? For sure, it is love. Since it is certain that He died for us, the least we can do for Him is to live out of love for Him. Nothing is impossible to love: it will destroy in us everything that displeases the Divine Majesty.”
We should contemplate the Cross often. But remember what is most important. God does not expect from us a merely affective love. Saint Francis de Sales explains it very well with his usual good sense: “The Savior does not ask only for the affective love which makes us weep or which stirs up so many desires without effects. Hell is full of such desires. Our Lord asks for the effective love, which manifests itself with the affective love, as he showed on the Cross.”
At the beginning of Passion time, let us turn to Our Lady of sorrows and let us learn from her how to love God. Loving God means loving the Calvary; because there, a God made man taught us one day how to love. With Mary, let us understand that “Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”