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And the greatest is love

Love buttresses wisdom and faith, such that true wisdom and true faith is anchored on love

Reflection for the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle C)

Peace is the fruit of justice, for peace prevails when and where everyone possesses his or her own equitable share of material goods as well as opportunities to obtain the same.

Justice is the fruit of simple sharing, for if every person is to be provided the means to fulfill his or her right and responsibility to self-development, then it requires every person to be aware first, that there is enough abundance in God’s creation that can be shared to obtain such means; and subsequently, to ensure that those who have less will always have sufficient means to satisfy basic needs, by persuading voluntary provision or enacting mandatory redistribution from those who have more.

Simple sharing is the fruit of the sense of mutual responsibility, for ensuring that everybody acquires their fair share, is the result of the gradual realization that we are all responsible for one another; otherwise, sharing amid indifference and irresponsibility can only be possible through the forced taxation of one’s excesses.




And mutual responsibility is the fruit of love, for one can and will only think and feel of giving oneself for another, when one is also conscious of a much deeper union between the two spirits. Mutual responsibility is possible yet incomplete without love, for love binds these two spirits in such a way that each rejuvenates the other with its presence; responsibility is made more complete because care must be committed to one who makes the other whole.

Christian praxis is therefore founded on love. At the core of every Christian motivation, and at the root of every Christian action, is love. We cannot have peace without love; we cannot fight injustice without love; we cannot have joyful sharing without love; we cannot have genuine responsibility without love. How can true service be defined if it is without love? How can patience with the shortcomings of others be borne if it is without love? How can forgiveness be sincere, how can mercy be total if it is without love?

Justice may be achieved with the sharpness of one’s knowledge or skills, or sharing may be accomplished with the tenacity of one’s convictions or beliefs, but the sustainability of peace will be attained only with love. We may have the best ideas, or the most uncompromising actions, but peace cannot be preserved through the mere application of one’s intellect or abilities, if it is not supported by one’s passion for such peace with another. Love buttresses wisdom and faith, such that true wisdom and true faith is anchored on love.

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Christian action may therefore be motivated in two ways: with or without love. The first way is motivated by a strange spiritual pride, an otherworldly worldliness that acts with authentic compassion for the weaker other, from a position of superiority: Since I am stronger, better and more capable than the other, then for the sake of charity, may I offer what I can for those in need? It is this first way which most frequently inspires our Christian action, a movement of charity seeking to uplift the burden of another without actually being or wanting to be immersed in it: “charity from an elevated distance.”

The second way is motivated by an uncanny spiritual humility that acts with authentic compassion for and in steadfast companionship with the weaker other, from a position of minority: I am just like you, so may I join you in our shared weakness, crying when you cry and helping you to become happier so we can both eventually smile together? It is this second way which rarely inspires our Christian action, a movement of charity seeking to uplift the burden of another through immersion, not by ‘pulling the weight up from above the other, but by pushing it together’: “charity with solidarity.” It is only in this second way that Christian action is truly “patient, kind, without envy … not boastful or arrogant … not ill-mannered”; it is only with love that Christian praxis will not “seek its own interest” and can “overcome anger and forget offenses …, excusing everything, believing all things, hoping all things, enduring all things.”

Is it not clear now that if we speak and act in God’s behalf without actually loving him, or if we serve and offer ourselves for others without actually loving them, then are we not just opportunistic hypocrites? Even prophets who have been instructed at birth by God to “Get ready for action; stand up and say to them all that I command you. Be not scared of them or I will scare you in their presence!” Or who are not even “honored in their own countries” must not rely on the power of their divine ordination; they are only fortified and can never be overcome because of the power of their holy love.

Love is infinite. It remedies and covers for many human deficiencies. We may lose or not even have wisdom, or our faith may suffer or decline, but for as long as love remains, Christian action is still possible. We can become holy even in the silence or “apparent uselessness” of our person, in the mundaneness of our existence, in the ordinariness of our lives, for as long as we are placing ourselves at the feet of whom we have committed to love, waiting for the Christ to raise us up, in the same way he bowed down for us and was raised by the Spirit.

Brother Jess Matias is a professed brother of the Secular Franciscan Order. He serves as minister of the St. Pio of Pietrelcina Fraternity at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Mandaluyong City, coordinator of the Padre Pio Prayer Groups of the Capuchins in the Philippines and prison counselor and catechist for the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.

The views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of LiCAS.news.

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