Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time • Year C

George F. Riley, O.S.A.
St. Thomas Monastery
Villanova, Pennsylvania

Jer 1:4-5, 17-19
Psalm 71:1-6, 15-17
1 Cor 12:31 – 13:14
Luke 4:21-30

It is much easier to give a five dollar bill to some good cause than to forgive a brother or sister. The former is almsgiving, the latter is charity.

Charity is not a virtue you can measure in money. Its abiding place is not in the purse or the billfold. Its home is in the heart.

Christ says it is the unfailing mark of His disciples. In the upper room, before his arrest and execution, the farewell discourse of Jesus was nothing else but a plea for charity. “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

There is great confusion today about the term “love.” We hear about love from the time we get up in the morning till we retire at night. The word stares out at us from a hundred magazine covers and billboards. It screams at us in a never-ending flow of commercials and pop tunes and television shows. We see husbands and wives, families, friends, soldiers and nurses, artists and athletes, all talking about love, claiming it as a motive, extolling it as a source of energy and inspiration and sacrifice. Some of what is said is true, and much of what is said is false; but nowhere are we given a full accounting of this most treasured of human experiences.

One of the great symbols of the early American Revolutionary spirit is the picture called, “The Spirit of ‘76.” It depicts three battle-scarred soldiers marching side-by-side. One of them is playing a drum. One is playing a fife. One is carrying the flag. Some years back, the United States Postal Service issued a stamp series commemorating this symbol. The series consists of three stamps, each bearing the image of one of the soldiers. A patriotic secretary purchased a large supply of these stamps for use in her office. Her employer thought this to be a fine gesture until he noticed that the secretary was putting all three stamps on each outgoing piece of mail when only one was required. “Why are you wasting money this way?” he asked. The secretary replied, “I just can’t break up a set. People need to see the whole picture in order to appreciate the “Spirit of ‘76.” That’s precisely the way it is with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. People need to see the whole picture in order to appreciate the Spirit of Christian Charity.

The Gospel picture is unmistakably clear: every human person comes into being as an object of God’s love. No exceptions. No equivocations. No options. No opinions. No discriminations. God loves you and He loves all creatures. It is the positive concern for all types of people we cross daily, bright and dull, direct and devious, saintly and cynical, arrogant and timid, courageous and cowardly. It is the extending yourself to their well being, peace of mind, and personal happiness. This means everybody: taxi drivers and waitresses, busboys and businessmen, millionaires and the homeless, and even the people who sit across from us at dinner.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon us. He has sent us to be healers, lovers, reconcilers. He has sent us to show the world the big picture, the true picture, the whole picture of the Spirit of the Charity of Jesus Christ: a love which seeks to relieve suffering, to proclaim liberty, and to fall down in humble gratitude for the forgiveness of the Father.