HomeCommentaryThe supernatural habit of charity

The supernatural habit of charity

Every day, we are challenged to give other people understanding, respect, kind words, humble wisdom, helping hands and prayers

Reflection for the 3rd Sunday of Easter (Cycle C)

Today’s readings are a poignant glimpse of Peter’s journey into the mystery of selfless love, “Truly, I say to you, when you were young, you put on your belt and walked where you liked. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will put a belt around you, and lead you where you do not wish to go. … Follow me!”

It is the same journey into which we are being called ourselves by the Spirit, the pathway of immersion into the ministry of charity for the kingdom of justice and peace.

His ultimate ascent as prince of the Apostles for all time, began with his own dramatic and ignominious descent in abandoning and denying the Christ, a downfall which he climactically acknowledged he brought upon himself in his humble confession to our Lord by the lake of Tiberias, “Yes, you know I love you.”

His compunction was the prime-mover for his apostolic service, his energetic response to the moral imperative, “Feed my sheep.” And from thereon, he committed himself to “suffer disgrace for the sake of the Name,” proclaiming with his death, “To him who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb, be praise, honor, glory and power, for ever and ever.”

Selfless love is an enigmatic virtue, for as in the cases of Peter and Paul, it is best offered by those who once exemplified the opposite. Conversion – and eventually, charity – seems to emanate less from an exterior prompting than from an interior movement of an inexplicable, otherworldly voice. This is why we understand charity to be essentially a “giving of the self for God and for others, initiated by God’s grace.”

So, selfless love when first observed, appears to be irrational, for it is “measured” not by how much was given, but by how much remains; the perfection of charity is thus, the total giving of oneself for the Other.

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True charity then comes not from a self-centered human desire to show God and others how generous we are or have become, nor to outdo them in “giving.” “Charity” is beyond mere financial aid, scholarships, free medical or legal assistance, livelihood programs or humanitarian foundations, for is it a virtue exclusive only for the advantaged who can afford them?

It may in fact, be more of a “receiving” manifested in “giving,” a human offering of love and service in response to the gift of divine mercy and compassion. In this sense, true charity is not an event as if it were something we can plan to perform on appropriate occasions; it is a daily way of life in the Spirit, a supernatural habit which establishes principally how we relate to others.

We must be open to true charity permeating our entire person, in everything we say, think or do, keeping in mind how our Abba continues to permeate our world in order to liberate it. We must be free to give ourselves to others, in the light of his own giving of himself for the sake of all.

Every day, we are challenged to give other people understanding, respect, kind words, humble wisdom, helping hands and prayers; and upon that one crucial, unexpected moment when God wills it, we are challenged to offer our very own lives.

True charity is also a demanding virtue, for do we not have the uncharitable choice of living the rest of our days in secure isolation and blissful indifference?

But if the Christ – the “slain Lamb who is worthy to receive power and riches, wisdom and strength, honor, glory and praise” – could sacrifice himself for our own sake, then is it not improper that we will refuse to do the same?

Brother Jess Matias is a professed brother of the Secular Franciscan Order. He serves as minister of the St. Pio of Pietrelcina Fraternity at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Mandaluyong City, coordinator of the Padre Pio Prayer Groups of the Capuchins in the Philippines and prison counselor and catechist for the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.

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