Father Chet, 1996
The night before he died, Jesus promised his disciples that they would be able to perform even greater miracles of grace than he did. This would be accomplished by the help and power of the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus promised to send them after his death and resurrection.
To us, the grace of the Holy Spirit is available through faith, hope, and charity.
These three openings to the power and energy of the Holy Spirit are available to all people throughout the world.
The sacraments of the Church, especially the Eucharist, are the normal ways by which the risen Lord Jesus imparts these gifts of faith, hope, and charity. But God’s grace is not limited to the sacraments.
The mercy and compassion of God is available to everyone, including those who know nothing about Jesus Christ, or, through no fault of their own, do not believe in Him.
Faith involves three aspects of our relationship with God. They are conviction, confidence, and commitment. This means that we need to:
- Believe that there is a supreme being who created us and loves us with an infinite, everlasting love.
- Have total confidence and trust in this loving God.
- Make a total commitment of our lives to God and the acceptance of God’s will.
Hope refers to the positive attitude we need to have towards God, others, ourselves, the world, and the future.
Charity refers to that unconditional love we need to have towards God and our fellow members of the human race. By unconditional love, we consistently put the needs of God and others ahead of our selfish desires.
Take Up Your Cross
Through the continuous practice of faith, hope, and charity, we receive the power to exorcise the modern-day demons which threaten our well-being.
This exorcism of evil will not be accomplished without a struggle. But God’s grace upholds us each day of our lives, provided we are willing to pay the price of pain, suffering, misunderstanding, failure, opposition, and persecution which Jesus experienced while on earth. “If anyone wishes to be my disciple, that person must take up their cross and follow me” (Luke 9:23).
Learning Charity Through Christ
One of the insights we need to grasp is how God’s love is expressed among us, and how we, as God’s children, may pass this love and new understanding on to others in the human family. Jesus has given us this roadmap. He has shown us the way.
The First Covenant
On Mount Sinai, God revealed to Moses the commandments that the Jewish people were to obey in order to remain the chosen people. There followed an exchange of promises, sealed in blood, between God and the assembly of the elect.
God promised to be faithful to the chosen people, to protect them from their enemies, to bring them to the Promised Land, and to help them gain possession of it. The assembly of the chosen ones promised to show their love for God by obeying His commandments.
A New Covenant
With the coming of Jesus, a new covenant of love was made between God and the new Christian community. New promises were exchanged.
These new people of God were instructed to do considerably more than the chosen people of the Old Testament. “A new commandment I give you, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34). As Christians, the standard by which we must measure our love for our neighbor is the unlimited love which Jesus Christ has for us.
Not only did the God-man promise to bring the people to the kingdom of God on the Last Day, he promised to lay down his life for them. This exchange of vows was sealed in the blood of Christ on the cross. “Greater love than this, no one has, that one lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).
The virtue of Christian charity is the perfection and completion of the love that we have been commanded by Christ to have and to give to others. The fullness of our love is to be given to our neighbor as well as to God.
Since love is something that we can learn only through the actual experience of being loved by another person, it was necessary for Christ to give us the example of love that is expected of us. Until the coming of Jesus, it was impossible for God to ask of us this kind of love.
Advancing in Love
It may take our whole lifetimes to attain the degree of love which the new Covenant of Christ requires. This should be considered a challenge rather than a reason for discouragement.
We are expected to work hard to cooperate with the graces of God that are given to us, and to advance each day one step nearer to a fullness of a Christ-like love. As long as we keep progressing toward perfect love, we should be content.
We need only be concerned when, year after year, we can see no real progress in the intensity of our love for God and others.
Love is Living
Love is a living thing, and so, never remains the same for very long. If we are not advancing in love, we can be sure that somewhere in our lives mediocrity has gained control.
What then can we do to ensure that our love for God and neighbor become more Christ-like? If our knowledge and love of Christ grows a little each day, then both consciously and unconsciously our love for others will more and more resemble the love of Christ.
The Four Steps of Love
In order to fulfill our part of the New Covenant, we need to progress through four steps of love in our relationship with Christ. These are:
Knowledge, Revelation, Benevolence, Union
We first become aware of love when we find ourselves desiring to know all we can about that person (Knowledge). This is followed by a desire to reveal ourselves to the beloved (Revelation). We then try to please the other (Benevolence). And all lovers desire to be with the other as much as possible (Union).
Growing in Knowledge
The first step in loving Christ is getting to know all about him. We must study and meditate upon every detail of his life until we come to know him as a real person and a true friend.
By reading the Gospels daily, it is possible for the marvelous personality of Jesus to come alive for us. We will find ourselves attracted to him and absorbed by every detail of his life. We will enjoy comparing the texts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John by using a harmony of the Gospels and by meditating on every detail given by each of the evangelists.
The Gospels will become a love letter to us from our beloved Jesus. Once caught by the magnetic personality of Jesus, we will never want to forsake him.
While growing in understanding and appreciation of Christ, we will begin to make comparisons between his character and our own. We will begin to know ourselves and recognize what we need to do in order to be like him.
It is impossible to love someone sincerely and deeply without at the same time imitating that person. The greater the contrast between the way Christ spoke and acted, and our own behavior, the more we will recognize the need for change in our ways. Seeing the honesty and straight-forwardness in Jesus, we will want to imitate his frankness and sincerity.
In this second step of love, one desires to become transparent to the beloved, to reveal one’s true self, so that the other may know us as we really are and love us just the same.
Jesus is one friend we never need fear of losing. “Behold, I am with you all days, even unto the consummation of the world” (Mt 28:20). “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you…. In that day you will know that I am in the Father, you in me and I in you…. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself in him” (John 14:18-21).
The third step of love, benevolence, will also have been growing apace with our increased love of Jesus.
Our hearts go out instinctively toward an object our intellect presents as being good. Therefore, every step in our knowledge of the infinite goodness of Jesus will call forth a strong desire to please him. Our love for Christ will cause us to study how he extended his good will to others by serving them so that we can do likewise.
We will heed and relate to his command to love others as he has loved, and our lives will move more gradually to unselfish service and good will.
The fourth step of love, the desire for union with Jesus, will make us long for that ultimate union with him in the kingdom of God. However, we will not be content to wait so long, so we seek every opportunity to be with him here and now. Through prayer and meditation, we can find great joy and satisfaction in speaking to him whenever we are alone.
Furthermore, our faith is that Jesus is present when we gather as Christians. For Jesus has said, “Where two or three gather in my name, there I am in the midst” (Mt 18:30).
Having studied the word of God in the Gospels, we will look forward with eager longing to every participation in the liturgy, especially the Eucharist. In turn, our Eucharistic union will make us want to prolong this union with Christ through love for our sisters and brothers, the members of the Mystical Body of Christ