Pope Francis: Charity is our very life


Charity – caritas – is our very life; it is what makes us “be” what we are.

When we embrace God’s love and when we love one another in him, we plumb the depths of our identity, as individuals and as Church, and the meaning of our existence.

We understand not only how important our own lives are, but also how precious too are the lives of others. We perceive clearly how every life is unique and inalienable, a marvel in the eyes of God.

Love opens our eyes, expands our gaze, and allows us to recognize in the stranger who crosses our path the face of a brother or sister who has a name, a story, a drama, to which we cannot remain indifferent.

In the light of God’s love, the reality of the other comes forth from the shadows, emerges from insignificance, and acquires value and relevance.

The needs of our neighbour challenge us, trouble us, and arouse in us a sense of responsibility.

It is always in the light of love that we discover the strength and courage to respond to the evil that oppresses others, to respond to that evil personally, and to confront it by committing ourselves fully and rolling up our sleeves.

God’s love makes us sense the weight of the other’s humanity as a yoke that is easy and a burden that is light (cf. Mt 11:30).

It leads us to feel the wounds of others as our own and challenges us to pour the balm of fraternity on the invisible wounds that we perceive present in their heart.

Do you want to know if a Christian is living charity?

Then look closely to see if they are willing to help freely, with a smile on their face, without grumbling or getting annoyed.

Charity is patient, Paul writes, and patience is the ability to endure unexpected trials, and daily labours without losing joy and trust in God.

For it is the result of a slow travail of the spirit, in which we learn to master ourselves and acknowledge our limitations.

As we learn to relate to ourselves, interpersonal maturity also develops, and we come to realize that other people too “have a right to live in this world, just as they are” (Amoris Laetitia, 92).

Breaking free from self-referentiality, from considering what we want for ourselves as the core around which everything revolves, even to the point of bending others to our desires, requires not only restraining the tyranny of our self-centredness but also cultivating a creative and dynamic ability to let the charisms and qualities of others come to the fore.

Living charity – caritas – thus entails being magnanimous and benevolent, recognising for example, that to work together constructively first requires “making space” for others.

We do this when we are open to listening and dialogue, ready to consider opinions that differ from our own, not insisting on our own positions but seeking instead a meeting point, a path of mediation.

The Christian who lives immersed in the love of God does not nurture envy, for “love has no room for discomfiture at another person’s good fortune” (Amoris Laetitia, 95).

Love is not boastful or arrogant, for it has a sense of proportion.

Love does not set us above others, but allows us to approach them with respect and kindness, gentleness and tenderness, sensitive to their frailties.

“If we are to understand, forgive and serve others from the heart, our pride has to be healed and our humility must increase” (Amoris Laetitia, 98).

Love is not self-serving but aims to promote the good of others and to support them in their efforts to achieve it.

Love does not take into account wrongs endured, nor does it gossip about the evil done by others; rather, with discretion and in silence, it entrusts everything to God, putting aside judgement.

Love covers everything, says Paul, not to hide the truth, in which the Christian always rejoices, but to distinguish the sin from the sinner so that, while the former is condemned, the latter may be saved.

Love excuses everything so that we may all find comfort in the merciful embrace of the Father and be cloaked in his loving forgiveness.

Paul concludes his “hymn” by stating that charity, as a more excellent way to reach God, is greater than faith and hope. What the Apostle says is completely true.

While faith and hope are “provisional gifts”, that is, linked to our lives as pilgrims and wayfarers on this earth, charity, by contrast, is “a definitive gift”, a pledge and a foretaste of the final time, the Kingdom of God.

Everything else will pass away, while charity will never end.

The good that is done in the name of God is the good part of us that will not be lost or wiped away. God’s judgement upon history is based on the “today” of love, on his discernment of what we have done for others in his name.

As Jesus promises, the reward will be eternal life: “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Mt 25:34). Continue reading

  • Pope Francis
  • Excerpt from Pope Francis message to participants in the General Assembly of Caritas Internationalis May 2023
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