mardi, novembre 11, 2008

Charity is not kindness

It is not rare to find Christians with wrong notions of charity. They mix up Charity and kindness. I used to be one of them for a while until I realized that even Our Lord was not always kind. He was sometimes severe and even strong against certain persons. Many people, soaked by sentimental and romantic ideas about Charity would tell that He did not have a real pastoral sense. If having a pastoral sense is pleasing everybody, then I must agree with them. But I cannot. I cannot because I know from God Himself what Charity is. God is Charity; He is not kindness. He is a Father, and as such, He is sometimes kind and sometimes severe according to the state of our souls. But He is always Charity. And if I want to learn how to act out of Charity, I must look at His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Charity is first the love of God and for God. Therefore it is the love for truth. The liberals and modernist Christians do not like the Truth. They would ask with Pilate: Quid est veritas? They build their religion on subjectivism and emotions and turn the virtue of Charity into kindness. John Henry Cardinal Newman, with his usual height of view portrays them. The following is from a sermon given for the feast of the Apostle St. Barnabas.

"I ask, then, by way of reply, does not our kindness too often degenerate into weakness, and thus become not Christian Charity, but lack of Charity, as regards the objects of it? Are we sufficiently careful to do what is right and just, rather than what is pleasant? Do we clearly understand our professed principles, and do we keep them under temptation?
The history of St. Barnabas will help us to answer this question honestly. Now I fear we lack altogether, what he lacked in certain occurrences in it, firmness, manliness, godly severity. I fear it must be confessed, that our kindness, instead of being directed and braced by principle, too often becomes languid and unmeaning; that is exerted on improper object, and out of season, and thereby is uncharitable in two ways, indulging those who should be chastised, and preferring their comfort to those who are really deserving. We are over-tender in dealing with sin and sinners. We are deficient in jealous custody of the revealed Truths which Christ has left us."

As a supernatural virtue, Charity has an objective character that does not depend on my perception of things but that is based upon the revealed truths. This virtue supposes for example submission to the authority of the Church or of the sacred Scripture. Certainly, obedience is a distinct virtue that is derived from the cardinal virtue of justice. But I cannot pretend to have the virtue of Charity while I deliberately break other virtues. Now, it happens that some people try to justify their disobedience for the sake of Charity. Cardinal Newman exposes them:

"We allow men to speak against the Church, its ordinances, or its teaching, without remonstrating with them. We do not separate from heretics, nay we object to the word as if uncharitable; and when such texts are brought against us as St. John’s command, not to show hospitality towards them, we are not slow to answer that they do not apply to us. Now I scarcely can suppose any one really means to say for certain, that these commands are superseded in the present day, and is quite satisfied upon the point; it will rather be found that men who so speak, merely wish to put the subject from them. For a long while they have forgotten that there were any such commands in Scripture; they have lived as though there were not, and not being in circumstances which immediately called for the consideration of them, they have familiarized their minds to a contrary view of the matter, and built their opinion on it."

They are no longer in the field of objectivity and truth but in the field of subjectivity and opinion. They have built their own religious system centered not on Christ but rather on themselves and their own understanding of the Gospel.

"When reminded of the fact, they are sorry to have to consider it, as they perhaps avow. They perceive that it interferes with the line of conduct to which they are accustomed. They are vexed, not as if allowing themselves to be wrong, but as feeling conscious that a plausible argument (to say the least) may be maintained against them. And instead of daring to give this argument fair play, as in honesty they ought, they hastily satisfy themselves that objections may be taken against it, use some vague terms of disapprobation against those who use it, recur to, and dwell upon, their own habitual view of the benevolent and indulgent spirit of the Gospel, and then dismiss the subject altogether, as if it had never been brought before them."

To be continued....

1 commentaire:

Christine a dit…

Good words, Father. How do you reconcile 1 Corinthians 13:4?