Choosing Love, or Losing It
The entire world: each country, every state, city, family and church, is in the process of choosing between life and death; safety, or destruction. Of course this is the story told from the beginning of the book of Genesis: just after everything was affirmed in its goodness in Chapter 2, it all goes south in Chapter 3. The question still remains, what will we choose? We, Christians call the answer the “Good News”; the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, that while we were still sinners, He died for us to save us from the ultimate destination of sin: death. So for us, the idea for now is, like St. Paul said; “to live is Christ, and to die is gain”. But what does that mean in 2018?
Much is a-twitter from social media to the far reaches of cultural expression about the lack of civility in our public discussion about everything from gun control to immigration. And while the topics may be of more or less import as it relates to the core elements of our Catholic Faith, the way in which we engage in civil discourse is what distinguishes us as Catholic Christians.
As professed Christians we are called to be able to listen with empathy, disagree without being disagreeable, show respect to all, and truly attempt to see things from the other persons point of view. All of these things we can do without ever compromising our belief. And to do this it takes real and deliberate effort. Most of us can tell when someone is blowing us off, or patronizing us, or even bullying us by raising their voice and monopolizing the conversation. If someone is not able to listen, then we can in good conscience, disengage and move on.
Chances are though there will always be an opportunity to show some understanding by repeating back to our conversation partner something they said while showing empathy by speaking about how it would feel to ‘walk a mile’ in their shoes. True Charity means to hold to virtue, and hold out for God’s grace. People will remember your authentic empathy long after they will remember the logical argument with which you speak. When we love, we speak the truth and seek the truth while above all treating our neighbor as a beloved brother or sister. And yes, doing so involves divine intervention in our minds and hearts; it’s not something we can do on our own.
To quote the late and beloved Fr. John Hardon S.J.:
Christian charity is the practice of all the virtues animated by love. It is more than natural love, because it is a supernatural virtue, which enables a person to love beyond the powers of human nature. It purifies our human ability to love, and raises it to the super human perfection of the very love of God; of the God, remember, who allows his sun to shine on the good and the bad, and His rain to fall on the virtuous and the wicked. Charity does, and this is of its essence, the humanly impossible. And how the world needs this. Christian charity is a moral miracle. There by definition: a moral miracle is where the real does what is beyond its natural powers of volition.
During this coming Holy Week we have an opportunity to reflect on God’s love in a very profound way. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ affirms that the greatest of all commandments is to love God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength and then to love our neighbor as ourselves. (Lk. 10: 25-28). Jesus also reminded the Apostles as well as us in the context of the Last Supper discourse: “And this is the greatest of all commandments to love one another as I have loved you… There is no greater commandment… By this will they know that you are my disciples if you love one another. His example proved it by dying on the cross for love of all of humanity. “No greater love has one than to lay down his life for his loved ones.”