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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Faith Without Action Is Dead, Part II

Father Jerome, Abbey of the Genesee, Piffard, NY

Continued from yesterday …

The challenge for our day is to keep these two aspects of Christian life in dynamic tension. We must not allow ourselves to become so immersed in contemplating the Word that we become blind to the needs of the poor. On the other hand, we must not become so consumed by concern for the poor that we ignore contemplation. Christian charity is rooted in the search for God. Our search for God is expressed in love for one another, especially for the poor. He Who has first loved us (Jn. 4:10) has precedence, both in the order of time and in the scale of values. Out of the depths of His love, Christ has called us to follow in His footsteps. The only reason we can respond to His call is that we have been moved by His love. I am reminded of the words spoken by Jeremiah the Prophet. "O God, you have captivated me and I let myself be seduced by You. You were too strong for me and you ravaged me" (Jer. 20:7). What powerful images those bring to mind!

This theme was taken up by Pope Benedict in his first encyclical. "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. The personnel of every Catholic charitable organization want to work with the Church... so that the love of God can spread throughout the world. By their sharing in the Church's practice of love, they wish to be witnesses of God and of Christ, and they wish for this very reason freely to do good to all." Service to our neighbor makes demands of the heart in the decision to desire the best for the other person, even at the price of self-abnegation. Whoever dedicates himself to service of others takes on the opposite of reputation, power, and rank that leaders and political entities claim for themselves.

Pope Benedict encourages us: "My deep personal sharing in the needs and sufferings of others becomes a sharing of my very self with them: if my gift is not to prove a source of humiliation, I must give to others not only something that is not my own, but my very self; I must be personally present in my gift." May our faith be pure and open enough so that the people who today are seeking and questioning, can glimpse the light of the one God who loves them and Whose power is the power of love. May the Spirit harmonize our hearts with the heart of Christ and move us to love all men and women as He loves them. Amen.

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