What we mean by Christian charity. The two words, charity and love, are not, for a Catholic, interchangeable. Christian charity is not merely love.
The Catechist as Teacher of Christian Love – Fr. John Hardon.S.J.
English is a Protestant language; and having taught at six Protestant divinity schools, I love Protestants, but I surely know that Protestantism is not Catholicism. Given that footnote, it might be useful, if only for a few minutes to explain what we mean by Christian charity.
The two words, charity and love, are not, for a Catholic, interchangeable.
Christian charity is not merely love.
Christian charity is supernatural love and it is supernatural love twice over.
It is supernatural for the mind and supernatural for the will.
How is Christian charity supernatural for the mind? Because, unless God had become man, and God is love, love became man. Unless God, who is love, became man and taught us by His own life, passion and death that there is such a thing as absolutely, utterly, totally selfless love, we wouldn’t even know what the word meant.
But Christian charity is also supernatural for the will. Besides having to be revealed by God, who is love becoming man, this same God-man has to provide us with a supernatural power otherwise known as grace to enable us to practice this selfless love. Christian charity, therefore, is supernatural twice over, as just explained. But it is also supernatural love in two ways or on two levels: it means, first of all, loving God more than anyone else in the world, especially that one other person who is most constantly in competition with God for being loved, who happens, just coincidentally, to have our name. Supernatural charity, therefore, means loving God above all creatures, especially that one oh – so loveable creature who happens to be – pardon the grammar but it’s good theology – me.
Christian charity also means loving others out of love for God. Depending on the size of the audience, I look around to see if anybody is older than me. I’m safe tonight. All I know is, you just cannot – and the verb is cannot – love others selflessly unless you are inspired by a deep love for God, because whatever else faith tells us, no matter how loveless a person may seem, how mean, how unkind, how cruel, how thoughtless, faith tells me, well, I may not be able to see anything loveable in this person, but I believe God loves him or her. And then – my lips may tremble when I say it – but I say, “Lord, You know exactly how I feel, but You love her (or You love him) and You tell me Lord if you love Me, love those whom I love.” Christian charity, therefore, means loving others out of love for God and, what is most demanding and humanly impossible, loving others even as God, Who became man, loves us; even loving others to die for others and – hear it – loving others who don’t love us! This is not Dale Carnegie, “Winning Friends and Influencing People;” It is not making mazuma. What some people love is a very profitable business. Not Christian charity.
Catechists then, to summarize part two of our reflections, Catechists have many truths of the Faith to teach, but none is more basic, none more important or profitable for salvation, or more distinctively Christian than to teach – and be sure that those you teach learn – the meaning and the value and the practice of selfless, supernatural love. That is Christianity.