Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

Essential thinking for reading Catholics.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

But the greatest of these is charity.

Dear Internet,

Color me reactionary -- you wouldn't be the first -- but my favorite English translation of the Bible is the (Catholic Edition) RSV. The old RSV, with all that "thee" and "thou" action going on. Douay-Rheims is good too, and online.

Anyway, as a result of this retro-proclivity of mine, I have always been jarred -- jarred, I tell you! -- when at a wedding one of the readings is I Corinthians 13:1-13. Part of the problem is that I am a pedantic Iberic. I'll grant you that one.

But in doing so, the version that gets read is the latest NAB* which has "Love" replacing "Charity." The upshot of all this being that Charity gets shoved into the back of the minivan. Mind you, Charity has a tough marketing row to hoe. Charity is an "active" thing. You can't go around feeling it. It demands things from a person. Love...not necessarily. While Love can be an active thing, it can also be a passive thing, something that is merely felt. So that way Love gets to skate ahead of Charity in our modern times.

Which is a pity.

Charity is, in my considered opinion, the lynchpin of a successful walk towards Grace. If Pride is the wellspring of all sin, then Charity is its polar opposite. Don't believe me? Fine. Try this. Go out and about today for an hour. The mall, perhaps. Somewhere where you stand a half-decent chance of interacting with people; some old guy asking you for directions, a little kid bumping into you, a cashier that has trouble making change, a parking attendant unsure of where there may be a vacant spot. Then, for laughs and grins, make it a specific point that no matter what you will be 100% charitable for that hour.

Assuming you last that long, take stock of just how bloody difficult it is. Arduous. Rigorous, even. This is clearly not our default setting as humans. In fact, the Catechism states it pretty clearly: Our fallen nature has"darkened our understanding, weakened our will, and left us a strong inclination to evil." That, people, conspires actively against being charitable. Especially the bit about "strong inclination to evil" which pretty much sums up our corrupting Pride.

When you think about it (and you bloody well should) it is impossible to be charitable and prideful simultaneously. The Jesuits phrase it as being a man (or, if circumstances call for it, woman) for others, although quite often it's never explained fully, but I digress. You cannot be absorbed in self-concern and simultaneously be charitable. "Leave me, everyone, I feel an impulse of charity is imminent!" doesn't quite work.

"All perfectly true, no doubt" says you. "But what does it all mean?"

I'll tell ya.

What we need most in this world, if we are to make a successful transition to the next, is Forgiveness. We need it by the bushel. The easiest way to get that if by exercising that over-atrophied spiritual muscle of Charity. Lucky for you (an me) the opportunities to exercise Charity are practically avalanching upon you as we speak. Whenever you read a blog entry (or comment thereon) that sorely tempts you to hurl invective and bile...or merely self-satisfied sarcasm, at the author. Whenever someone on whom you counted lets you down, bad.

Perverse as it may seem, rejoice. You have been given the opportunity to flex that Charity. You won't like it at first. But like all things you flex, it eventually becomes reflex. When that day dawns, stop and look and marvel at how far you have come in your walk with God.



* To which, cynics would say, the USCCB holds copyrights and thus could well be accruing monetary gain from the sale of the Lectionaries it requires be used at Mass. I'd never say that, but, you know, cynics would.