First Sunday after Pentecost ~ The Virtue of Charity

 

The great lesson to-day, my good young people, is, that we should be kind-hearted, merciful, and charitable. The saints, the friends of God, were charitable. What did they do for their fellow-men? Did they possess a thing and not give it away? Did they spare themselves in any way in their labors for the benefit of others? They tried to be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful, and if we wish to be perfect, we must endeavor to be the same.

Then Our Lord wished us to be very careful in our judgment of others. “Judge not, that you may not be judged.”  Be careful of being suspicious, lest you form rash judgments accordingly. Do not put a bad construction on others actions; do not ascribe bad motives to them. When a man does a good act, do not suspect him of a bad motive, and thus lead yourself and others to question the merit of it.

St. Augustine says, “If you have charity for others, you will wish only what is good for them.” A good and wise teacher of morality gives this beautiful lesson: “Humility does not see the faults of others; simplicity does not believe them; charity does not disclose them.”  But, you will say, am I to be such a fool, that if I see my companion doing wrong, I am to believe he is doing good? Do not, of course, think an evil action a good one; that would be nonsensical; but may there not be many extenuating circumstances which will make him less culpable? Pray for the culprit with charity in your soul, and think what you would be, had not God kept you from sin; what falls would have been yours; what disgrace; consider your frailty, and ask yourself sincerely, “Why am I still good? Does it depend on myself?”  0, no, you must admit, it was a special providence that cared for you more than for others. They fell deeply; you, too, would have fallen and further; but the mercy of God held on to you for its own ends.

A good monk who witnessed the sad fall of a soul in the spiritual life, said in the most compassionate tone, “Alas, it is his turn to-day; it may be mine to-morrow.”

Our Lord commands us to forgive injuries, saying, “Forgive, and you shall be forgiven.” How easily we are aroused to anger, and how hard it is to come forward, with open hand and open heart, to meet a friend who has offended us, and take him back to our confidence. The slightest disagreement repels us from each other, and immediately there seems to be an impassable gulf, which shame and stubbornness or our own meanness will not allow us to bridge.

“Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thy heart.”  Do you know when you can refuse to look your companion kindly in the face? When he comes to you to lead you into sin; then your anger and zeal may show itself, and you may let him know that you are no friend of his; a man who injures your soul cannot be looked upon with indifference. But in all other things, be careful to keep charity; forget and forgive injuries. Our Lord in another Gospel tells us, “If we love one another, God abideth in us and His charity is perfected in us.” What a beautiful example of this virtue have the first Christians given us; even the pagans used to admire them in their charity and love towards one another. What fights and grudges are often seen among our young men; if they have anything against another, they take the law in their own hands, and undertake to punish the offender. Give that up, and look for no revenge; revenge and punishment really belong to God; let Him take charge of your grievance, and at the same time pray fervently to God, that He deal lightly with your enemy and not punish him.

Our Lord gives us a great example of forgiveness to our enemies. What did Our Lord do for His enemies? He prayed to His heavenly Father: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.  ”Jesus was God Himself, and to do any injury to God ought naturally to bring down the anger of the Deity on the offender. He could have sent a legion of angels against them, or He might have allowed fire and brimstone to fall upon them and consume them. But not so with God. He waits patiently, sending His grace into their poor hearts to see if they would become better. The saints did the very same thing; for they loved their enemies and performed many acts of kindness for them, forgetting every injury that was committed against them.

Our Lord in teaching charity certainly could not omit one great act of charity. He asks us to practice almsgiving. My dear young people, you have not yet the means of giving alms of your own; hence you are not obliged to observe this command; still learn early to feel for the poor. Do not laugh at their poverty, their dirt, their tattered garments, or their roughness; have compassion on them, show sympathy for them, and help them if you can. “Reach out your hand to the poor.”  What you give to the poor shall not be thrown away, it will return to you again sometime, in divine blessings.

What do we see good people do, not to speak of saints?  They are kind-hearted and hospitable, they share their possessions with others to a certain degree. It is not necessary to give our all, but to give a little from it. Our Lord has promised great things to those who have acted in this spirit of charity. He will repay us with a measure that is well heaped up, well shaken down and overflowing.

We have to carry a good record of charity toward our neighbor to the judgment-seat of God, for there this very question will be discussed. Our Lord has already described that judgment in the Gospels:  “When the Son of man will come in His majesty He will say, I was hungry and you gave Me to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me to drink. Amen I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these My least brethren, you did it to Me.” Our Lord gives a parable about the blind leading the blind; they both fall into the ditch.  The parable is plain enough; a blind man would not entrust himself to another blind man to be led. And yet it is done frequently in the spiritual life. Do you not entrust yourself to the guidance of blind companions? You are blind already, because your passions do not allow you clear judgment, and you consult someone on your imaginary difficulty. The devil is ready for you, he knows your dilemma, and at the right time he brings one who will advise you according to his ideas; these ideas coincide with your own, you are confirmed in your evil resolution, and both of you fall into the ditch of sin. The priest sees this very often. Not a day passes but young men and women of his parish go off with their blind counselors. How have they fallen into those sins?  “Ah, my dear father, a bad guide, a bad companion led me astray, and reduced me to this condition; once I was pure, I did not even suspect there were such sins; but I was led into them, and now I have satisfied my taste for them. I have ruined my life, and I am a miserable wreck.”

But this is not the worst of it; that we have been led into sin is bad, but far worse is it to stay in sin and to continue to indulge in those vices. It is related by Thomas Cantiprates of a companion who was led astray and died a horrible death without having time to go to confession. He died with these words in his mouth, “I am now going to hell but what about him who dragged me into sin?” If he said this before he was judged, what  would his words be when he stood at the gates of hell, and looked back at his fearful loss for a never-ending eternity.

You wish to go to heaven. Well, then, choose for yourself a good priest, a good confessor; chosen from among thousands, as St. Francis de Sales used to say. Pray fervently to Our Lord, that as He sent the archangel Raphael to guide Tobias, so He will send you, if not an angel, a man of angelic qualities; and to him yield up your guidance entirely. This man, enlightened by God, will show you the way that leads to eternal life. ”Make your ways and your doings good, and I will dwell with you.”

St. Philip Neri, when he observed a youth who governed himself well, frequented the Sacraments, and allowed himself to be directed by a good confessor, used to say, “If he does not go to heaven, who will?”  Our Lord in His sermon on the mount says, “Why seest thou the mote that is in thy brother s eye and seest not the beam that is in thy own eye.”  You hypocrite, take first the beam from your own eye; then you may be able to remove the mote from your brothers.  We see the smallest defect in others, but of our own great shortcomings we make not the least difficulty. Thomas a Kempis tells us, “In others we blame the smallest failings, whilst the greater defects in ourselves we pass over lightly.”  You notice a slight disobedience in your companion, and you cry out in astonishment, ”What insubordination!”  You see another talking in church. “What little piety he has!”  you say. Another has been caught in a lie; you never forget it; in your eyes he is a liar forever. In short, you see the mote in your brother’s eye. Since you know that you are sometimes guilty of these very failings yourself, do you ever say to yourself, “You unruly fellow, you liar, you wretch without devotion”? Therefore study to know yourself, and by frequent examination of conscience learn your own condition. Be humble, for humility is pleasing to God, and you will not be of the number of those of whom Jesus Christ speaks, “Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thy own eye and then shalt thou see clearly to cast the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”

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