By Father Jim Thermos
Spiritual Director at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary
I remember when I was six years old and faced with a Christmas dilemma: I was beginning to be aware that the gifts I would soon receive from my parents were given because they loved me. My problem was that I had no money to buy them a gift to show them how much I loved them. My dear father came to the rescue, giving me two dollars (a lot back then!) to “pick out something for your mom.” With joy, I settled on a little statue of Jesus and his parents, embracing one another; a sign of my love for them.
In his beautiful work, True Devotion to the Holy Spirit, Servant of God Archbishop Luis Martinez reveals the nature of charity and why it is so important: “God loves us through the Holy Spirit. In order that we may correspond to [His] infinite love…[the Holy Spirit] pours into our souls the likeness of Himself, which is charity.”
God has found a way for you and I to “love Him back” with the same type of love that he pours into our hearts. In Jesus, we are “Baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire” (cf. Mt 3:11). This Holy Spirit is infinite love and dwells within us. We have a dilemma … How can we love him back with an infinite love? You and I are only his creatures.
The Holy Spirit gives us Charity, a supernatural and divine love — in the likeness of himself (i.e. he gives us the “two dollars”) so that we can “love him back.”
Why is Charity so important? Because it is a supernatural gift of love that we receive at baptism and which gives us superpowers: to return God’s love with a love worthy of him, and to love our neighbor, our enemy, creation and all that is with a love like his (charity). In my own poverty, I know that I don’t have enough “human love” to lay down my life for my neighbor, let alone my enemy. Relying on the Holy Spirit, I can truly love; through, with and in Jesus. My small little self can participate in the infinite love of God for every person.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Such a love is a “purifying fire.” It burns up within me everything that does not reflect this infinite love; selfishness, pride, envy, sloth. Everything that does not resemble the beautiful, merciful, joyful love of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We have to keep saying “Yes” to the Holy Spirit’s work of making us holy (into God’s likeness.). The Holy Spirit — our advocate and friend — once again comes to our assistance, bearing his sevenfold gifts: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, fear of the Lord and piety. We are being transformed into the likeness of Christ. We hear in Isaiah’s prophecy (Is. 11:1-10) that “the spirit of the Lord” (with his sevenfold gifts) “will rest upon him” (Jesus). With each gift comes the opportunity to put our gift of Charity into action. This same Holy Spirit rests upon us, seeking to “prepare the way of the Lord” by bringing about peace in our souls — harmony in our thoughts, emotions and desires — and forming in our souls the maturity of Christ: “The wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; the calf and the young lion shall browse together” (Is. 11:6-7).
Having received at our baptism the most precious gift of the Holy Spirit, and with him, his sevenfold gifts and the bestowal of theological virtue of Charity (along with the theological virtues of Faith and Hope), we rejoice in the celebration of Jesus as our King and Messiah. We are readied to participate in his mission; enduring the cross that all persons might share the Son’s love for the Father as adopted sons and daughters.
Who could have imagined, or thought to ask for the gift of Charity? That we might be enabled to respond to the infinite love of the Most Holy Trinity with an infinite love of our own? Such joy. Thank you, Father, for this undeserved gift. You are truly our Father. Thank you for the “two dollars.”
To coincide with the archdiocesan Advent preaching series, this article is part of a series about The Eucharist as the Sacrament of Charity.