Amoris Laetitia 306: Charity in the Bible

amoris laetitia memeThe Holy Father offers a brief paragraph, but one with significant support from the Bible:

306. In every situation, when dealing with those who have difficulties in living God’s law to the full, the invitation to pursue the via caritatis must be clearly heard. Fraternal charity is the first law of Christians (cf. Jn 15:12; Gal 5:14). Let us not forget the reassuring words of Scripture: “Maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Pet 4:8); “Atone for your sins with righteousness, and your iniquities with mercy to the oppressed, so that your prosperity may be prolonged” (Dan 4:24[27]); “As water extinguishes a blazing fire, so almsgiving atones for sins” (Sir 3:30).

Let’s be careful here. The Scriptuiral witness is not that good deeds by themselves instigate being on good terms with God. Remember that New Testament witness cited from Saint John and Saint Paul: Caritas is a law. It is the “first” law we follow in expressing our faith and status as daughters and sons of God. We don’t do good things to punch some grace ticket. We offer charity and love to others as part of the Christian condition. Caritas is a substrate, and environment in which we Christians live, move, and have our being. As flawed mortals, we sin in spite of the good things we do or want to do. But maintaining an active discipleship helps express more than just following a strict moral code can accomplish. For the disciple, the actions are a response to God’s good grace. Not a means of entry into it.

Saint Augustine offers a metaphor:

This is also what Saint Augustine teaches: “Just as, at the threat of a fire, we would run for water to extinguish it… so too, if the flame of sin rises from our chaff and we are troubled, if the chance to perform a work of mercy is offered us, let us rejoice in it, as if it were a fountain offered us to extinguish the blaze”. (De Catechizandis Rudibus, I, 14, 22: PL 40, 327; cf. Evangelii Gaudium 194)

For your reference Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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