When Pope John Paul II describes “Loving the Church and Humanity As Jesus Did,” we’re continuing along that path of imitation. The first notion to be explored is “apostolic charity.” We’re not talking about charity as much as caritas. This isn’t about charity programs as much as it involves an affective attitude toward non-believers. And in this day and age, I’d have to add nones. If there is love for the people who are perceived to have abandoned active practice of the faith, then I think we’ve caught the bug. Otherwise, we might be more accurate in diagnosing institutional attitudes. Let’s read:
Missionary spirituality is also marked by apostolic charity, the charity of Christ who came “to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad” (Jn 11:52), of the Good Shepherd who knows his sheep, who searches them out and offers his life for them (cf. Jn 10). Those who have the missionary spirit feel Christ’s burning love for souls, and love the Church as Christ did.
The quality here is described as “zeal.” Check a missionary: is the first thing on her mind in the morning reaching out to someone new? Check a pastor: does she ponder the next appointment for a coffee or a beer with a non-parishioner? Check that average Catholic: is she pondering her neighbor, co-worker, or adult child?
The missionary is urged on by “zeal for souls,” a zeal inspired by Christ’s own charity, which takes the form of concern, tenderness, compassion, openness, availability and interest in people’s problems. Jesus’ love is very deep: he who “knew what was in man” (Jn 2:25) loved everyone by offering them redemption and suffered when it was rejected.
The Scripture quote is from the end of the episode of turning over the money tables in the Temple.
Charity, again, defined by human affect, not by material sustenance given:
The missionary is a person of charity. In order to proclaim to all his brothers and sisters that they are loved by God and are capable of loving, he must show love toward all, giving his life for his neighbor. The missionary is the “universal brother,” bearing in himself the Church’s spirit, her openness to and interest in all peoples and individuals, especially the least and poorest of his brethren. As such, he overcomes barriers and divisions of race, cast or ideology. He is a sign of God’s love in the world – a love without exclusion or partiality.
One final expression of love:
Finally, like Christ he must love the Church: “Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her” (Eph 5:25). This love, even to the point of giving one’s life, is a focal point for him. Only profound love for the Church can sustain the missionary’s zeal. His daily pressure, as St. Paul says, is “anxiety for all the churches” (2 Cor 11:28). For every missionary “fidelity to Christ cannot be separated from fidelity to the Church.”(Presbyterorum Ordinis 14)
This is not about defending an institution, but an organic Body, a community of persons known and strangers, and is more about people than things.
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