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Pope at Audience: Charity is the work of the Holy Spirit in us

Pope Francis reflects on “charity” at his weekly General Audience, saying that the theological virtue “comes from God and is directed towards God, and enables us to love God… and to love our neighbour as God loves them.”

By Christopher Wells

Pope Francis turned his thoughts to the theological virtue of charity on Wednesday as he continued his series of catechesis on the vices and the virtues.

He began his reflection with the passage of St Paul: “So faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” The Holy Father noted that these words were addressed to the Christians of Corinth, who suffered from division and strife – even in the Eucharistic celebration.

The virtue of charity comes from God

“Who knows, but perhaps in the community of Corinth, no one thought they had commited a sin,” the Pope said. If that was the case, they might have found Paul’s condemnation of their strife “incomprehensible.”

Although they might have imagined they were good and loving people, St Paul’s challenged them on true charity, which comes from God. “Paul is concerned that in Corinth – as among us, too, today – there is confusion and that there is actually no trace of the theological virtue, the one that comes to us only from God,” Pope Francis said.

‘A greater love’

Like every human person, the Pope explained, Christians are capable of “all the forms of love in the world”: romantic love, love of friends, country, humanity.

“But there is a greater love,” Pope Francis said, “which comes from God and is directed towards God, and enables us to love God… and to love our neighbour as God does.”

This is the virtue of charity, which enables us not only to love our friends and family, but to love even those people that it is difficult to love. “This is ‘theological’,” the Pope said, because “it comes from God, it is the work of the Holy Spirit in us.”

A difficult virtue to practice

Recalling the Sermon on the Mount, the Holy Father showed that Jesus revealed love “as a theological that assumes the name of charity.” It is a difficult virtue to practice, even an impossible one “if one does not live in God.”

But beyond the normal loves and affections of the human heart, he said, “Christian love embraces what is not lovable, it offers forgiveness, blesses those who curse. It is a love so ardent that it seems almost impossible, and yet it is the only thing that will remain of us.”

And he concluded with the warning that, in our final moments, “we will not be judged on generic love, but precisely on charity,” and quoted the words of Jesus, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.”

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