Each of God’s commandments is an expression of His unconditional love for us. Jesus’ Church begins this fifth week of Easter proclaiming His command to love one another (Jn13:31-33). He made love or charity the badge of the Christian. “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, by your love for one another.” (Jn 13:35)

What does Jesus mean by love? From His perspective love isn’t just a feeling but rather a way of life. Following Jesus’ example it means viewing others as valued, treated with affection and to be desired for themselves rather than for what they do. So love and charity are one and the same. To love is to be charitable and to be charitable is to love. Jesus’ Church calls charity a virtue. A loving person is one who practices the virtue of charity. A virtue is a good habit that provides the antidote to vice.

A couple of centuries before Jesus’ birth Aristotle emphasized the importance of living a virtuous life. He noted that virtuous living required exercising the part of one’s mind that practices reason and excellence. He identified 12 basic virtues that lead a person to excellence: courage, temperance, liberality (better to suffer evil than do evil), magnificence, magnanimity, patience, truthfulness, wittiness, friendliness, shame, justice and modesty.

Aristotle explained that virtues are developed by practicing them. We become just by practicing justice, truthful by practicing truthfulness and honesty, charitable by practicing charity, courageous by practicing courage, etc., until they become habits of the heart and as such extensions of our self and we do them unconsciously.

Jesus came to save us by reconnecting humanity to divinity within His Person in order to save it from sin and enable people to be images and likenesses to God. Thus He made possible the cleansing of our soul from the stain of Original Sin along with the grace to overcome our proneness to sin. This becomes concrete through replacing vices with virtues.

The vices with which Satan tempts man and woman are pride, envy, wrath, greed, lust, gluttony and sloth. The virtues that resist these vices are humility, mercy, meekness, generosity, chastity, temperance and diligence. The necessary foundation for these virtues are the three divine virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity and the four moral virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance. The divine virtues are essential in order to be a virtuous person able to resist evil’s false promises.

Divine virtues come from God. They are supernatural so therefore only God can enable a person to practice them. Faith, Hope and Charity are supernatural virtues which we practice through the power of the Holy Spirit.

To be a virtuous person natural faith, hope and charity/love aren’t enough to sustain us when we’re tempted by Satan. Only the faith, hope and love that God infused in us the day we were baptized empowers us to live the virtuous life consistently and conquer the vices that are prevalent in a world that is Satan’s kingdom.

Our will, on its own, is too weak to say “no” to temptation posed by worldly pleasure and selfishness. St. Paul reminds us that of the three supernatural virtues, the greatest is charity or love (2 Cor 13:13). The fact is that we cannot be virtuous without God’s gift of faith, hope that gives us the strength to choose the virtues over the vices.

How do we know what love is? What does it mean to love, to be charitable and practice the divine virtue of charity? Jesus’ Church teaches that “Charity is the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for His own sake, and our neighbour as ourselves for the love of God.” (CCC 1822)

With Jesus’ new Covenant comes a new Commandment. What’s new about Jesus commandment is the fact that He made His love for His disciples, His charity towards them, the standard or benchmark against which they would judge whether they were loving or uncharitable toward one another. “As I have loved you, so you also must love one another.” (Jn 13:12)

Since Jesus freely sacrificed Himself to save the world, the benchmark of love is self-sacrifice. That’s the love that creates “a new heaven and a new earth” and proclaims that, “God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be His people and God Himself will always be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away.” (Rev 21:1-5) Charity covers a multitude of sins (1 Pt 4:8).

Where love is, there is God because “God is love” and there’s no love without God. Thus the Psalmist proclaims: “I will praise Your Name forever, my King and my God … Your Kingdom is a kingdom for all ages, and Your dominion endures through all generations.” (Ps 145:8-13)

God’s gift of love in the virtue of charity practiced by Paul and Barnabas “strengthened the spirits of the disciples and exhorted them to persevere in the faith, saying, ‘It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:21-27) It’s this virtue of charity, which God helps us to practice every day, that empowers us to withstand the onslaught of Satan and encourage one another in the Faith.

The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to show that love, charity, is essential for the effectiveness of all gifts and virtues because it is patient, kind, not jealous or pretentious or snobbish or rude or wrathful or self-seeking or rejoicing at the misery of others, but rejoices in the truth and is limitless in its forbearance and trust and hope and endurance (1 Cor 13:4-8).

In order to practice charity and love others as Jesus loves us St. Paul provides us here with an examination of conscience that lets us know whether our love is real and sacrificial or selfish and fake. Our human spirit is always being influenced by either the Holy Spirit or the spirit of evil.

We know the Holy Spirit is leading and influencing our spirit when we habitually love others as Jesus loves us. That’s the benchmark for true love.


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