What is charity and why do we need it?
It is always good to ponder and appreciate the love that God has for us. The strongest proof is that Christ died on the cross for us. In response, the Lord asks us to love as He does, sacrificially, which includes even loving our enemies. The gift of charity received at Baptism strengthens us for this challenging task. Let’s take a closer look.
What is charity?
Charity (love) is a theological virtue which means that this gift comes from God and leads us back to God. Charity is the power to love God above all things and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God. Charity makes up for what is lacking in our human ability to love and strengthens us to love as God loves, in reality allowing Him to love in and through us.
To love our neighbors means to will their good. Love in this sense is an act of the will, and it is not simply a feeling. The gift of charity inclines our will to act and our emotions may eventually follow. Charity allows us to love our family and friends, making a decision to treat them with respect and kindness regardless how we feel, and by doing good things for them. We can show charity toward our enemies by praying for them.
Why do we need the virtue of charity?
Charity upholds and purifies our ability to love. Charity animates goodness in relationships, making us capable of acting as God’s children and of inheriting eternal life. By responding to God’s love by living out the Ten Commandments we are strengthened in our relationship with Christ. Further, when we practice the virtue of charity, we will see the fruits of joy, peace, and mercy in our lives.
Charity also demands that we speak the truth in love, pointing out when someone is in error, especially when living a lifestyle that offends Christ because it is harmful and demeans the person’s God-given dignity. For example, parents show “tough” love toward their children through proper discipline in forming their character.
How do we nourish and renew charity?
When we need the gift of charity, the most important thing we can do is ask for it. Ask God for the grace to know how much He personally loves you. He will answer that prayer. When we know that we are truly loved by God, we are compelled to love others who are indeed children of God. In turn, let us also pray for the grace to grow in our love for God thereby avoiding indifference, ingratitude, and luke warmness toward His love.
We are strengthened in our ability to live charity toward others by receiving Christ Jesus in the Holy Eucharist each Sunday. When we fail to practice charity, we can go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation to receive forgiveness and be made stronger through God’s grace. In cooperating with His grace, there is a revitalizing effect and we are renewed to begin again in our efforts to love more perfectly.