May the Holy Spirit make you creative in charity, persevering in your commitments, and brave in your initiatives, so that you will be able to offer your contribution to the building up of the “civilization of love”. The horizon of love is truly boundless: it is the whole world!--Pope Benedict XVI

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

If you see charity, you see the Trinity

“If you see charity, you see the Trinity”, wrote Saint Augustine in De Trinitate. The Trinity is the perfect model of a community of love. A true community (communio) is where love received as a gift from our Creator is poured out in abundance to the broken and the needy. Doesn't this include most of us? Aren't many of us in need of a "Good Samaritan" who offers healing love to hearts that have grown cold?

In "Deus Caritas Est" Pope Benedict XVI writes that those who carry on true works of charity: "must not be inspired by ideologies aimed at improving the world, but should rather be guided by the faith which works through love (cf. Gal 5:6). Consequently, more than anything, they must be persons moved by Christ's love, persons whose hearts Christ has conquered with his love, awakening within them a love of neighbour. The criterion inspiring their activity should be Saint Paul's statement in the Second Letter to the Corinthians: “the love of Christ urges us on” (5:14). The consciousness that, in Christ, God has given himself for us, even unto death, must inspire us to live no longer for ourselves but for him, and, with him, for others. Whoever loves Christ loves the Church, and desires the Church to be increasingly the image and instrument of the love which flows from Christ."

Government can provide social services, tax credits, assistance payments, "free" lunches and perhaps even contribute to the "general welfare." But, can it love? No. The national government should stop taking resources from some of us to give to others. This most often has a paralyzing effect on impulses toward true charity and reduces what we have to give.

In gratitude for the tremendous love that has been given to us Christians will share with the broken, the lost and the lonely. Why is it important that we share the love we have been given? As John Paul II wrote: "Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it. why Christ the Redeemer 'fully reveals man to himself'".


  1. All this is very true, but the only problem I have with the specific formulation is that people could use it to refer all questions of justice to charity. Certainly Benedict himself does not do this, neither in Deus Caritas Est nor in Caritas In Veritate, nor in Spe Salvi. Charity is indispensable, but not as a way of avoiding justice, of reforming unjust structures.

  2. John,

    Thank you for your comment. I share your concern regarding "unjust structures." I assume you are alluding to what John Paul II calls "structures of sin" in Evangelium Vitae when he says: "The criterion of personal dignity-which demands respect, generosity and service-is replaced by the criterion of efficiency, functionality and usefulness: others are considered not for what they "are", but for what they "have, do and produce". This is the supremacy of the strong over the weak."(n.23)

    Yes, I too seek reform of such structures. However, no perfect structures will come from our search for justice. Still, we should seek to find and implement systems which do not treat human persons as interchangeable material cogs.

    Of course, even in a much more just system material charity will be necessary for some who due to physical, mental or moral impairment will continue to need assistance. Just as importantly, all who are given the unmeasurable gift of God's love should share, out of their abundance, with the lost, the lonely and the broken. At the same time our pursuit of justice should be ongoing.

    It is essential that our communities find inspiration from the Blessed Trinity, a community of love. The love of God is eternal and we should pray that we may live in the center of his love forever. To the best of our capabilities we should reshape our culture, from our gratitude to God, be a culture of life.