Sacred Heart

Catholic Church

Imlay City, Michigan  Tel: (810) 724-1135

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Fr. Paul Ward

Sunday, January 31, 2016
4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C


With Charity, Everything;
Without Charity, Nothing



   In today’s second reading, St. Paul instructs the Corinthians, and us, about the supreme virtue of charity, without which there is no other virtue, and which supplies what every deficient virtue lacks. Let us meditate on this virtue today.

   First, some notes on parish life. A reminder that on Tuesday, we’ll have the blessing of candles and procession at the beginning of the 8am Mass. All who can are encouraged to obtain candles for use in prayer or in the home, and bring them to be blessed on this special day. Also, today is the memorial of St. John Bosco, suppressed because of the Sunday. To him who was master with boys, I ardently pray, for intercession, for our catechism courses, the Trailblazers, and every other project for children and youth, that they contribute to the holiness and salvation of their souls.

   St. Paul looks at charity, and he is as one who holds a precious thing in his hand, imagine for example a diamond ring, and spends time just looking at its beauty, turning and flipping it to appreciate its many beautiful facets. Charity has so many beautiful facets and qualities, and St. Paul numbers them in 1 Cor 13.

   Every person desires to love and to be loved. This desire is more universal and radical than his desire for happiness. This is true even of the Divine Persons; for example, the Sacred Heart of Jesus revealed to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, once, these words, “I thirst with such a terrible thirst to be loved by men in the Blessed Sacrament that this thirst consumes me. Yet I find no one trying to quench it according to my desire by some return of my love.” (Letter, Nov. 3, 1689; #133, p. 219) And no one ever says, “I have been loved enough; I don’t need love any more.” All desire love, and love is a two-way street, something given, and something received – not taken, received.

   See that St. Paul speaks not of human love, philia in Greek, but of a most perfect and selfless love, supernatural love. We Christians have always needed a different word for this, for it isn’t just human affection or even human choice, it’s God’s own love working within us even in ways we can’t perceive; the word St. Paul uses is agape, and we call it charity.

   And so when the Apostle waxes so eloquent about the virtue of love, it cannot help but stir the deepest wells within. So moving is this passage that couples often desire to hear it read at their wedding Masses – even though there is nothing specifically matrimonial in this text.

   Before he gets on to the list of the glorious qualities of love – patient, kind, humble, selfless, constant, loving of the truth – he states how everything he has and does would be absolutely worthless if they were not infused with love.

   For, as I said at the beginning in different words, when one has charity one has everything, and when one does not have charity, one has nothing. St. Francis de Sales says, “In [charity] all the perfections of the soul are contained and assembled, and… without it, not only can one not have the whole array of virtues, but one cannot even have the perfection of any [single] virtue.” (Treatise on Divine Love, XI, ch. 9, p. 379). And again, a little later, “When the moral virtues… produce their actions in the absence of charity… they are of no value towards Paradise.. all this profits nothing.” (Ibid., ch. 11). And in the letters of reproach in the book of Revelation, the Lord complains to the Church in Sardis, “you have the name of being alive, and you are dead”; and to the Church in Ephesus, after praise for many good deeds, the Lord laments to them, “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned your first love,” that is, the love you had at first (Rev. 3:1, 2:4).

   The direct and most desirable way to holiness and salvation is this, then: to live in grace, and, while in grace, to love God above all things, and to love your neighbor as yourself. Practice charity if you cannot practice anything else, and if you fail in the attempt, you can even repent with charity. Charity fills in the holes, seals up the cracks, disinfects what’s polluted, and fixes what is broken.

   If at the hour of your death, you have many virtues, but not charity, your virtues will be monsters, and you will not enter heaven. But if you have only one virtue by the time you die, let that be charity, true supernatural charity, and it will supply for the rest. May Mary, the mother of God, obtain for us such a grace and much more always. Amen.


































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