Happy Solemnity of the Feast of the Sacred Heart!!
Let us thank God for His amazing love manifested to us in the Sacred Heart of Jesus! Remember what Jesus said to St. Margaret Mary? “Behold this heart which loves so much yet is so little loved.” Have we hardened our hearts? Are our hearts open to practice charity? Wait…what is charity?
In order to develop the truth about charity, we must recall what we know already. We know that “God has created man through love, and through love continues to hold him in existence” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 27). Just ponder on that for a moment! God created us because He is love and it is His love that holds us in existence. Yet, we are weak, and fallen, yet out of His great and infinite love He sends us a Saviour to redeem us. Jesus says: “For God so loved the world that He sent His only Son so that all who believe in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) God humbles Himself, becomes one of us, like us in all things but sin, in order to redeem us. That is love. Jesus’ gift of Himself was total…He held nothing back, He gave everything! That is love…that is true charity.
There are times where we can mistakenly think of charity using Gollum’s theology. For those of us who are familiar with Lord of the Rings, we remember that Gollum is a creature who represents sin, and the effects of sin. His theology of charity is as follows: “We’ll be nice to them (the hobbits), very nice if they’ll be nice to us…” Poor Gollum, he is a creature representing the effects of sin. Purely attached to the ring of power, and purely obsessed with his own desire for it, we see in his definition of charity a very selfish way of thinking about love. However, it raises some questions: Is “charity” and being “nice” the same thing? Is charity about only being nice to others if they are nice to us? In short this is bad theology…sorry Gollum!
Compare Gollum’s definition of charity with our own Catholic definition of charity. Charity is the supernatural virtue infused by God into the will, by which we love God for Himself above all things and ourselves and our neighbor for God. St. Giuseppe Moscati, a saint who was a doctor said this about charity: “Let us practice charity, let us not forget to make an offering of our actions everyday, every moment, doing everything for love’s sake.”
So what are some essential elements of charity? Practicing charity means communicating the divine goodness that is present within us to those who are both sinners, and faithful people. The desire to give love, to share the divine goodness that is inside of us, is something that we must will. We must will the salvation of all, including those who hurt us. Gollum, on the other hand, only wanted to help Frodo and Sam so that he could eventually steal the Ring…not the Christian form of charity!!!
Finally there must be a willingness to both receive and give of the Divine Goodness. We cannot give what we do not have ourselves. Our love must be a desire for good for ourselves and an ability to receive and give love. Saint Mother Teresa once said, “Intense love does not measure, it just gives.” Receiving and giving love is both founded and rooted in charity.
So what are the means for growing in charity? How can we receive this Divine love that is called to be poured into our hearts? By engaging in lectio divina, we are able to awaken God’s love through holy reading and mental prayer (a loving heart to heart conversation with Christ whom we know loves us). Also, by the sacraments, (Eucharist etc…) so that we are able to respond to God’s love through sacramental graces. I find it so interesting that Gollum does not eat the lembas bread (filled a man’s stomach with just one bite). The lembas bread represents the Eucharist that sustains us. Gollum could not receive the lembas bread because his heart was not disposed to receive…he was too consumed in his life of sin and darkness.
Not only this, but we are called to love God in return and our neighbor in God through liturgical praise and worship. At Mass we come together as a community of faith to give God the worship that is due to Him, and to come as one united body. By practicing a purifying love for the Cross of Christ, we can learn to embrace a love that is sacrificial for our neighbour.
Indeed, charity is the most excellent of the virtues. First, it intimately unites us to God. Faith helps us to know God, hope prepares us with union in God, but a life of charity means we begin to live a life of divine perfection, meaning a life where the Fruits of the Spirit are lived out: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, modesty, self-control, generosity etc… The great Padre Pio once said: “Joy with peace is the sister of charity…serve the Lord with laughter.”
As we ponder on the Sacred Heart, let us keep in mind the intense love the Lord has for us! Let us also keep in mind this wonderful virtue of charity. Charity is more then being nice. Charity is a gift of self to God and to others. Please ponder on this Scripture passage today:
Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things…So faith, hope, love abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, 13).