What do you think of when you think of charity? Do you think of food drives, clothing drives, and helping the homeless? The truth is that while those are wonderful works and examples of charity, they’re only part of the picture.
Father Tim Monahan, Vocations Director for the Archdiocese of Chicago, stopped by The Inner Life® this week to discuss this most important virtue, and why each one of us is called to live a life of charity.
Father Monahan pointed out that unlike the human virtues of patience, justice, temperance, and courage, charity is a theological virtue.
“The theological virtues are infused by God into our souls at Baptism, strengthened in Confirmation and whenever we receive the sacraments,” he explained. “The thing about the theological virtues is that they are adapting us to participate in the divine nature. They are gifts that God gives us to participate in divine nature.”
So if charity is a gift that is given to us by God, in what way does it allow us to participate in His divine nature?
Fr. Monahan said, “Charity is the virtue by which we love God above all things, for His own sake. I think of St. Teresa of Avila who once said, ‘We love the giver of all good things for Himself, not just for His gifts.’ So charity is loving God above all things for His own sake, and also loving our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God.”
To learn and grow in charity, Fr. Monahan suggested turning to Scripture, particularly the Gospel of John chapters 13-17.
“That’s where Jesus keeps saying, ‘This is a new commandment I am giving you, to love one another,'” he said. “Those are chapters we need to sit with. We have to sit with in silence, we have to ruminate upon them, we have to let them wash over us. It’s very important for us to spend time with that, because at the end of His life Jesus was focusing on the absolute essentials.”
Many couples include 1 Corinthians chapter 13 in their wedding, as it is St. Paul’s discourse on charity. And it is fitting, as that is what spouses are called to in marriage. But, Fr. Monahan pointed out, each one of us is called to live this life of charity in all vocations and all stages of life.
“We’re all sinners, we have all sorts of imperfections,” he said. “We need to focus on being charitable. But being charitable means I need to live according to the model of Jesus Christ, who poured Himself out. He gave Himself to His friends, and even to His enemies, asking the Father to forgive them. Teaching, preaching, always giving of Himself, of His time, and of His heart.”
“It’s important to look to the example of Jesus and then say, ‘Lord, help me. Because I can’t do this on my own. I need this gift of charity you have given me in my heart so I can live according to your model.'”
Listen to the conversation below: