Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Preparation for Good Friday - Charity

"I thirst!" St. John, 19:28.

The Detroit Times of May 7, 1948, carried an interesting interview with a Mrs. Alice McDougall, Michigan's sole survivor of the sinking of the Lusitania. On May 7, 1915, a German U-boat sent a torpedo crashing into the hull of the giant Lusitania, plunging 1,198 men, women, and children to their death in the cold waters of the Irish Sea.

On that 33rd anniversary of her harrowing experience Mrs. McDougall recalled the hundreds of women and children clinging to the sinking ship. She recalled how the water was dotted with bodies of men and women and children. She recalled seeing mothers wrap their babies in blankets and throw them over the side of the ship. She recalled how she stood on the steeply sloping deck and prayed. And especially she recalled how her prayer was answered, when a tall distinguished passenger calmly took off his life jacket and placed it about her. In after years she learned that this savior was Alfred G. Vanderbilt, the millionaire sportsman. She recalled, too, how she had been picked up by a British Cruiser.

"Is it any wonder," Mrs. McDougall exclaimed, "that I have spent each May 7 since that terrible day in prayer, prayer for the soul of the man who enabled me to live, and prayer for all those hundreds of others who died all about me."

In gratitude to the man who gave his life for her, this Michigan woman thought prayerfully of him on every anniversary of his sacrifice. In a much higher way we who have been saved by Christ's death on the cross, prayerfully remember every year that great day - Good Friday.

We shall gather again on Good Friday to thank Him for dying for us. We shall gather to thank Him for the love that led Him to make the supreme sacrifice for us. We would like to think about that love today in preparation for Good Friday. We would like to see what love means, what charity really is. It was the great virtue of Christ; it must be the great virtue of every follower of Christ.

I. Charity means the love of God for His own sake, and of our neighbor for the love of God.

A. It is much misunderstood. Charity does not mean giving money or clothing to the poor; it does not mean tossing coins into a blind man's cup. Such acts may or may not be the expression of charity according to whether or not they are done for the love of God, or just because it makes the giver feel good.

B. Love does not mean a tender emotion or feeling. Least of all does it mean sensual or sexual affection, which is chiefly of the body. Love does mean the preferring of someone on the part of the mind and the inclination and choosing on the part of the will. The emotional element need not be present. Don't think you do not love God because you do not feel that love.

C. True love of God shows itself in keeping His laws and the laws of His Church.

D. True love of God shows itself in doing things for our fellowman for the love of God.

E. The human heart delights in what is good and true and beautiful. God is supreme good and supreme truth and supreme beauty. We love God Himself because of what He is and who He is. We love Him for His own sake.

II. Without this virtue of charity we cannot be saved. It is the greatest of the virtues.
A. It is queen and guardian of the other virtues.

B. It gives God the heart, the will, the important part of man.

C. It makes all our works, even the simplest, precious in the sight of God.

D. It remains, as St. Paul tells us in I Cor. 13:1-13, after faith and hope have ceased to exist.

III. Why should we love God and our neighbor?
A. Christ commanded it. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, with thy whole soul, with thy whole mind, and with thy whole strength." St. Mark, 12:30.

B. God has every good thing without limit. He is all perfect. He is lovable without limit.

C. His love for us demands a return of love. On Good Friday, there on the cross, we will be vividly reminded and see the love of God for each one of us. He died for you and for me. "God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that those who believe in Him may not perish." St. John, 3:16.

D. We should love God because He has been good to us.

IV. How should we love God?
A. By thoughts and words and acts of love for God. On Good Friday, our Love is crucified for us. Tell Him that you love Him. Decide to do some deed of love just for His sake.

B. Beg His pardon for offending His love. Sin is the only offense against Him. Be sorry for it, especially this week, and most especially on Good Friday when you see on that cross what sin has done. All sin is against charity.

C. We love God by doing loving things for the children of God, by charity toward our fellow man, particularly those near to us by reason of blood, profession or association.

Christ calls out for our love. "I thirst," He cries. He thirsts above all for the love of men, for your love and my love. Perhaps we will not be called upon to give our lives out of love for Him. But we must give what we can out of love.

As that woman in Detroit recalled every May 7 the sacrifice of the man who gave her his life preserver, so also on this Good Friday, let us recall that Christ gave Himself for us. He died for us - out of love. Can we refuse to return that love by charity toward God and charity toward our neighbor while claiming to be His followers, His disciples?
Adapted from Prayers, Precepts and Virtues
by Fr. Arthur Tonne, OFM (©1949)

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