THE greatest expression of Christ’s love was not the Sermon on the Mount or even the multiplication of the loaves.
It was on the Cross.
So too, in The Hour of Glory for the Church, it will be the laying down of our lives in love that will be our crown.
Love is not an emotion or sentiment. Nor is love merely tolerance. Love is the action of putting the other’s best interests first. This means first and foremost recognizing the physical needs of another.
If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? (James 2:15)
But it also means putting their spiritual needs in a close second. Here’s where the modern world, and even portions of the modern Church have lost sight. What sense is it to provide for the poor and completely ignore that the bodies we are feeding and clothing may be headed toward eternal separation from Christ? How can we care for the diseased body and yet do not minister to the disease of the soul? We must also impart the Gospel as a living word of love, as hope and healing for what is most eternal, in those who are dying.
We cannot reduce our mission to simply being social workers. We must be apostles.
Truth needs to be sought, found and expressed within the “economy” of charity, but charity in its turn needs to be understood, confirmed and practiced in the light of truth. In this way, not only do we do a service to charity enlightened by truth, but we also help give credibility to truth, demonstrating its persuasive and authenticating power in the practical setting of social living. This is a matter of no small account today, in a social and cultural context which relativizes truth, often paying little heed to it and showing increasing reluctance to acknowledge its existence. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Caritas in Varitate, n. 2
Certainly, it does not mean handing a pamphlet to everyone who enters the soup kitchen. Nor does it necessarily mean sitting on the edge of a patient’s bed and quoting Scripture. Indeed, today’s world is nauseated with words. Overtures about the “need for Jesus” are lost on modern ears without a life that lives in the center of that need.
People listen more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and when people do listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses. It is therefore primarily by the Church’s conduct, by living witness of fidelity to the Lord Jesus, that the Church will evangelize the world. —POPE PAUL VI, Evangelization in the Modern World, n. 41
We are inspired by these words. But we wouldn’t know them if they hadn’t been spoken. Words are necessary, for faith comes by hearing:
For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? (Rom 10:13-14)
Many say that “faith is a personal thing.” Yes it is. But not your witness. Your witness should shout to the world that Jesus Christ is Lord of your life, and that He is the Hope of the world.
Jesus did not come to start a country club called the “Catholic Church.” He came to establish a living Body of believers, built upon the rock of Peter and the foundation stones of the Apostles and their successors, who would transmit the Truth which sets souls free from eternal separation from God. And that which separates us from God is unrepented sin. The very first proclamation of Jesus was, “Repent, and believe in the gospel”. Mark 1:15 Those who cave in to a mere “social justice” program in the Church, overlooking and ignoring the sickness of the soul, rob the true power and fecundity of their charity, which is ultimately to invite a soul along the “way” to “life” in Christ.
If we fail to speak the truth about what exactly is sin, the effects of it, and the possible eternal consequences of serious sin because it makes us or our listener “uncomfortable,” then we have betrayed Christ all over again. And we have hidden from the soul before us the key which unlocks their chains.
The Good News is not just that God loves us, but that we must repent in order to receive the benefits of that love. The very heart of the Gospel is that Jesus came to save us from our sin. So our evangelization is love and truth: to love others into the Truth that the Truth may set them free.
Everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin… Repent and believe in the gospel. (John 8:34, Mark 1:15)
Love and truth: you cannot divorce one from the other. If we love without truth, we may lead people into deception, into another form of bondage. If we speak truth without love, then often people are driven into fear or cynicism, or our words simply remain sterile and hollow.
So it must always, always be both.
BE NOT AFRAID
If we feel we have no moral authority to speak the truth, then we should fall to our knees, repent of our sins trusting in Jesus’ inexhaustible mercy, and get on with the mission of proclaiming the Good News through a Christ-centered way of life. Our sinfulness is no excuse when Jesus paid such a high price to absolve it.
And neither should we let the Church’s scandals deter us, though admittedly, it makes our words more difficult for the world to accept. Our obligation to proclaim the Gospel comes from Christ Himself—it is not dependent on outside forces. The Apostles did not stop preaching because Judas was a traitor. Nor did Peter remain silent because he had betrayed Christ. They proclaimed the truth based not on their own merits, but on the merits of Him who is called Truth.
God is love.
Jesus is God.
Jesus said, “I am the truth.”
God is love and truth. We should always reflect both.
There is no true evangelization if the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, are not proclaimed… This century thirsts for authenticity… Do you preach what you live? The world expects from us simplicity of life, the spirit of prayer, obedience, humility, detachment and self-sacrifice. —POPE PAUL VI, Evangelization in the Modern World, 22, 76
Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth. (1 John 3:18)
First published April 27th, 2007.
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