General Audiences - Wednesday, September 27th, 1978
TEOLOGAL VIRTUE OF CHARITY
'My God, I love You with all my heart, everlasting good and our eternal happiness; and for love to You, I love my others as myself and I forgive the received offences. Lord, may I love You much more'. It is a very well-known prayer, full of Biblical texts. My mum has taught it to me when I was a little boy. My mum has taught it to me but I pray it even now, several times a day, and I will try to explain it to you word by word, as if I was a simple parish catechist.
The sublime trip of love
We are in the 'third lamp of the sanctification' of which Pope John spoke: charity.
I love. First word. During Philosophy class, the professor told me: 'Do you know St. Mark' s bell tower? Yes? And then, pay attention, it means that the bell tower has almost made a trip towards you. It has left within you almost a mental picture of itself. However, do you love St. Mark' s bell tower? The thing turns round. It is you who are going towards it, pushed by that small mental portrait'. That is: to love means to go towards the beloved object with the mind, with the heart. It is also said by the 'Imitation of Christ ': who loves currit, volat, laetatur, runs, flies, he is glad, enjoys (l. III, CHAP. V, 4). Then, to love God is to go with the heart towards God. A very beautiful trip. As a boy, I was delighted with the trips narrated by Jules Verne ('Twenty thousands miles of submarine trip', 'The fur land', 'From the Earth to the Moon', 'Trip to the centre of the Earth', '80 days around the world', etc.). But the trip towards God is much more interesting. We read not on Verne' s novels but on the Saints' lives. Today, for example, we celebrate St. Vincent of Paul, a giant of charity, who has loved God more than a father and a mother are loved and he was given himself to the poor, the prisoners, the sick, the orphans. From another Saint, St. Peter Claver, I have read during these days, or better, read again, that the day he consecrated himself to God, he signed like this: 'Peter, slave of the black for ever'. These ones are interesting trips! A little bit difficult sometimes, right, but we have not to be stopped by difficulties. Jesus is on the Cross: do you want to kiss Him? Dear, you have to lean on the Cross and let you be pricked by some thorns of the crown, that Jesus has around His head (cf. SALES, Oeuvres, Annecy, t. XXI, page. 153). You cannot do what the good one of St. Peter who knew very well how to shout: 'Long life to Jesus' in the Tabor mountain, where there were glory and joy, but not even he was seen next to Jesus in the Calvary hill, where was danger and pain (cf. SALES, Oeuvres, t. XV, page. 140).
To love God with all our heart
A little bit difficult and mysterious trip because I don't undertake this trip loving the Lord if the Lord does not take the initiative first: ' Nobody can come to me if the Father does not attract him' (Jn. 6, 44). And here, St. Augustine wonders: 'But then?, He is attracting me, where is the human freedom?'. Never to be afraid! But it is just God who has wanted, who has made, who has put the human freedom within us. He knows very well how to respect this freedom also if He wants to take us to the point where He wants us to arrive. Augustine has written: ' parum est voluntate, etiam voluptate traheris '. He says: 'He attracts you in such a way that you not only want but you want with pleasure, you enjoyed to be attracted!' (ST. AUGUSTINE, In Io. Evang. Tr. 26, 4). Respected freedom, mysterious trip.
I love You with all my heart. I emphasize that 'all'. Totalitarianism in politics is bad. However, in Religion our totalitarianism, regarding God, fits wonderfully.
It is written: 'You will love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your energies. These, my Commandments, may they be fixed in your heart. You will repeat them, you will say them at home, seated, on the street, when you are walking, when you go to bed in the evening, when you get up in the morning, you will write them on the doorway and on your home doors' (Deut. 6, 5-9). Do you understand?
That 'all' repeated with insistence and applied to all the circumstances of life, this 'all' really becomes a flag of the Christian maximalism. Not a little, but so much we have to give the Lord! He is too much great, He is too much made for us, God, He deserves too much so that we can throw Him sometimes as a poor Lazarus, only some breadcrumbs of our time and our heart. He is the infinite good and He will be our eternal happiness. Money, pleasures and careers of this world are only fragments of good. They are a moment of happiness. It is not wise to give this things so much from ourselves and, instead, to give God few from ourselves.
To love Him over all the things
Then, it says: with all my heart over all the things. Now, it is made a confrontation between God and the things.
Let us pay attention: we have not to say: ' or God or the man'. We have to say: 'I have to love and God and the man'. But in different ways. The man: to love him never more than God, never against God, never at the same level of God.
The Bible speaks about Jacob as a Saint (Dan. 3, 35), loved by God (Mal. 1, 2; Rom. 9, 13). It shows him being determined during seven years of work in order to win over Rachel as wife; and he says: 'seven years that have passed as few days' (Gen. 29.20 ). He loved so much his fiancée.
Francis of Sales makes us a brief comment on these words and he says: 'Jacob loves Rachel with all his energies, but with all his energies he loves God, too, as God, over all the things and more than himself. Rachel, as his wife, over the other women and as himself. God, with a supremely love, absolutely supreme. Rachel, with a maritally supreme love (Oeuvres t. V, page 175). In other words, a love that has to be, non exclusive, but must prevail, over. And also, so many other things can be loved.
To love the others like oneself
And then, for love to You, I love my others as myself. We are here before two inseparable loves: love to God and love to the others. French people say : Ce sont les frères jumeaux. They are like twin these two loves. They go together. God has wished like that. And, on the other hand, how can I do to love the others or, better, certain others if I don’ t love God, before? Some faces are not pleasant for me. Some persons have hurt me, they hate me, I must love them, too. I only risk if I extend over them the great love that I already feel for God. They wouldn' t deserve it, Lord, but they are Your little children, they are Christ' s brothers and sisters these persons, too. Like... and like, not only with words, but with facts. We will have a test at the end of our life and Jesus has already said which are the questions He will ask us: 'I was starved in my very little brothers, have you given me some food? I was sick, prisoner, have you come and visited me?' (cf. TM. 25, 34 ss.). These are the questions. We must answer them, here! Taking these words and another ones from the Bible, the Church has made two lists: seven works of temporal mercy and seven spiritual ones. They are not complete. It would be necessary to update them.
For example, hunger. Today, it s not referred to this or that one individual. There are populations that are hungry. We all remember the great Pope Paul VI' s great words: 'the hunger populations call in a dramatic way the opulence populations. The Church is shaking before this shout of anguish and is calling each one to reply the own brother with love' (Populorum progressio, 3). And then, here, justice is joined to charity because the Pope also says, in the Populorum progressio always: 'Private property is not an inalienable and absolute right for anybody. Nobody has the prerogative of being able to use goods exclusively for the own benefits beyond the need, when there are those who are dying because they have nothing' (Populorum progressio, 22). They are serious words, together with another ones. At the light of these words, not only nations, but also we, private, especially we from the Church, have to wonder: Have we really fulfil Christ' s precept: 'Love your neighbour as yourself?'.
And, Jesus' precept is also forgiveness, maybe the most difficult thing but it support us. It seems He has preferred forgiveness more than the divine cult. 'If you are before the altar to make your offer and there you remember your brother has something against you, leave your offer there, go first to reconcile with your brother, then, come back and make your offer' (Mt. 5, 23-24).
To go ahead by loving God
“Last words. But, am I wrong or is there a fifth degree, here? Yes... one boy, can he come here to help the Pope? Only one... one! I was saying... come here, come hear! In what class are you?” “Fifth degree” . “Well, then, pay attention: do you want to remain always in fifth degree or the next year in another class?” “Ah, for me it is the same but, ah, I' d want to remain in fifth because, oh, I leave, because when I will be going to first year I will leave my teacher but then...“ “Then, do you want to remain always in fifth or do you also want to go to first year?” “I' d want to remain always in fifth...“ “Ohhh... then this boy is different from the Pope because when I was in fourth I said: ohhh, if I were in fifth and when I was in fifth, I said: who knows if I will go to first year, if I am promoted. Understand? What is your name?” “Daniele.” “Well, Daniele. The Lord has put inside us a strong desire of progressing, of going ahead. Who is in first year says: but I will go to second. Who is in second says: but I will go to third. But also with the adults, you know? I have met a Captain who said: but, when will they be going to make me a Lieutenant Colonel and he wanted to go ahead, too. Everybody wants to go ahead and this... The Lord has given us a strong desire of progressing. Look: we began living in caverns, lake dwellings, then some cabins, then palaces, now skyscrapers. More and more ahead. First they went on foot, on horseback, on camel, then, the cart, then the train, now the airplane. More and more ahead. This is the law of progress. But not only progress when travelling. I said before, I don' t know if you has been paying attention, that the love to God is a kind of trip. Also here, it is necessary to progress! Lord, make me love You more and more. Never to stop. The Lord has told all the Christians: You are the light of the world. You are the salt of the Earth. Be perfect like my Father who is in Heaven is perfect. So, never to stop. To progress with God' s help, in the love of God. OK? Right, now I let you go. Have you seen he has helped me?”
To the sick
Here, we have the sick. We wish he can heal. But we recommend so much their families and those who are taking care of them, they can take care a lot. The Pope, who are talking to you, has been eight times in the hospital, with four operations. It is not the same thing to have a nurse or another one. It is who does it with great care. It is not only appreciated the service; it is appreciated the way oneself is being served and being taken care. So, we recommend so much they can be helped with great charity, with great urge.