Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Thoughts on the Spiritual Treasure of Charity

I've been thinking about charity lately.  We often think that charity involves giving large (or small) amounts of money--or perhaps, time--to 501C3 organizations and the like. While true, philanthropy is but a small part of what charity actually is.

In reality, charity is about generosity of spirit.  It is about the highest form of love--agape.  At it's core, agape love is love for the other such that one wishes only the highest good for them.  As Christians, we are called to charity for both our neighbor and our enemies--wishing the greatest good for them, not thinking of ourselves.

"He (Christ) must increase and I must decrease," Saint John tells us.  This is the foundation of the virtue of charity. We no longer focus on ourselves, but on the greater good of others.

Charity Even in Thought
This begins with our very thoughts.

This verse from Philippians chapter 4 is the crux of charity:
Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
We must have as our goal, custody of the heart and mind.  Are we quick to assume the worst of others' motives?  Is it not on our radar to find or assume mitigating circumstances for the angry stranger or the grumpy spouse?  Are we generally cynical, pessimistic and self-centered?  These things are sins against charity and must be rooted out through great amounts of prayer to the Holy Spirit.

Thoughts Lead to Words
The book of James tells us,
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?
and Matthew reminds us:
From the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. 
In order to root out uncharitable things that we say, we must first root out the uncharitable things we think.

What to do? First and foremost, learn the difference between "venting" and poisonous verbal attacks.  "Vent" to a journal.  Vent to a therapist.  Vent to God in prayer.  He is always listening.  Give to God your anger and frustration, your jealousy and irritability.  Lay them at the foot of the cross and ask for His help. He will not let you down.

Avail yourself of the sacrament of confession and Holy Communion.  Give your struggles over to God and get His grace in return.

Say the Jesus Prayer as much as you can--especially in challenging situations.  This can go a long way to focusing your mind away from uncharitable thoughts and words.

Charity is a challenge today.  It is not something that is often in "the world" but it is truly a spiritual treasure.

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Dymphna's favorite quotes

"Slavery ended in medieval Europe only because the church extended its sacraments to all slaves and then managed to impose a ban on the enslavement of Christians (and of Jews). Within the context of medieval Europe, that prohibition was effectively a rule of universal abolition. "— Rodney Stark

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