DAILY CATHOLIC    MONDAY     October 25, 1999     vol. 10, no. 203


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      Today, we bring you the words from His Holiness Pope John Paul II from last Wednesday October 20 on the third Wednesday of October during his weekly Wednesday Papal Audience at St. Peter's Square where the Holy Father continued his catechesis on the Theological Virtue of Charity, this week concentrating on the intrinsic link of love of neighbor to fulfill our love for God, for without love for neighbor the Fruits of the Holy Spirit cannot be manifested because total love means keeping the two great laws - to love God and to love neighbor. Without one of the two, our love is empty. The full English text was translated and provided by ZENIT news agency, article ZE99102020.

"Love of God demands love of neighbor"

Papal Audience Address from Wednesday, October 13, 1999

        On this past Wednesday, the Holy Father addressed over 16,000 in St. Peter's Square in which the Pope called for us to love neighbor as our selves for we cannot love God if we do not love our neighbor. Pretty strong words, but they come from Christ Himself and are the harmony of God's love for us.

    Dear Brothers and Sisters,

    1. "If one says: 'I love God,' and hates his own brother, he is a liar. In fact, whoever who does not love his own brother whom he sees, cannot love God whom he does not see. This is the commandment we have from Him: He who loves God, also loves his brother" (1 John 4, 20-21).

        The theological virtue of charity, of which we spoke in the last catechesis, is expressed in a double direction: toward God and toward one's neighbor. In both one and the other, it is the fruit of the dynamism itself of the life of the Trinity within us.

        Charity, in fact, has its source in the Father, it is fully revealed in the Easter of the crucified and resurrected Son, and infused in us by the Holy Spirit. In it, God makes us participate in His own love.

        If we really love with God's love, we will also love our brother as He loves him. Here is the great novelty of Christianity: you cannot love God if you don't love your brothers, creating with them an intimate and lasting communion of love.

    2. The teaching of Sacred Scripture in this respect is unequivocal. Love of our neighbor was already recommended to the Israelites: 'Thou shalt not seek revenge and hold rancor against the children of your people, but you will love your neighbor as yourself" (Leviticus 19,18). If, at first, this precept seems directed only to the Israelites, it is, however, intended in an ever wider sense, even to include the foreigners who lived in their midst, in the remembrance that Israel itself was a foreigner in the land of Egypt (Cf Leviticus 19,34; Deuteronomy 10,19).

        In the New Testament, this love is commanded in a clearly universal sense: it implies an idea of neighbor that has no limits (Cf Luke 10, 29-37) and includes even one's enemies (Cf Matthew 5, 43-47). It is important to note that love of one's neighbor is seen as an imitation and prolongation of the merciful goodness of the celestial Father who provides for the needs of all and makes no distinctions of persons (Cf ivi, v. 45). This is also linked to the love for God: the two commandments of love in fact are the synthesis and summit of the Law and the Prophets (Cf Matthew 22, 40). Only the person who practices both commandments is not far from the Kingdom of God, as Jesus Himself emphasized, in response to a Scribe who had questioned Him (Cf Mark 12, 28-34).

    3. Following this path, which joins the love of neighbor with that of God and together to the life of God in us, it is easy to understand how love is presented in the New Testament as a fruit of the Spirit, what is more, as the first among many gifts listed by St. Paul in the Letter to the Galatians: "Instead, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, benevolence, goodness, fidelity, meekness, self-mastery" (Galatians 5, 22).

        Theological tradition has always made a distinction between the theological virtues, the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit, while, at the same time conserving their correlation (Cf Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1830-1832). While the virtues are permanent qualities conferred on the creature in view of the supernatural works he must accomplish, and the gifts perfect the virtues, be these theological or moral, the fruits of the Spirit are virtuous acts that the person does with ease, in a habitual way and with delight (Cf St. Thomas, Summa Theologiae, I-II, q. 70 a. 1, ad 2). These distinctions are not opposed to what Paul affirms when speaking in the singular of the fruit of the Spirit. In fact, the Apostle wants to point out that the fruit par excellence is divine charity itself that is the soul of every virtuous act. Just as the sunlight is reflected in an unlimited spectrum of colors, so charity is manifested in multiple fruits of the Spirit.

    4. In this sense, in the Letter to the Colossians it says: "Above all let there be charity, which is the key to perfection" (3,14). The hymn to charity in the first Letter to the Corinthians (Cf 1 Corinthians 13) celebrates this primacy of charity over all the other gifts (Cf vv. 1-3), including faith and hope (Cf v. 13). Of this [virtue] Paul affirms: "Charity will have no end" (v. 8).

        Love toward one's neighbor has a Christological connotation, because it must be configured to the gift that Christ has made of his own life: "From this we have known love: He gave His life for us; therefore, we must also give our life for our brothers (1 John 3, 16). In so far as it is measured by the love of Christ, it can be called a new commandment," which makes it possible to recognize the true disciples: "I give you a new commandment: that you love one another, as I have loved you, so should you also love one another. From this all will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another" (John 13, 34-35). The Christological meaning of love of one's neighbor will shine in the second coming of Christ. In fact, and indeed then, it will be seen that the measure of judgment of adherence to Christ is precisely the daily and visible exercise of charity toward one's neediest brothers: "I was hungry and you gave Me to eat ..." (Cf Matthew 25, 31-46).

        Only the one who lets himself be moved by his neighbor and by his poverty, shows concretely his love for Jesus. To be closed and indifferent to the "other" is to be closed to the Holy Spirit, to forget Christ and to deny the universal love of the Father.

October 25, 1999       volume 10, no. 203


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