Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!


Ave Maria!
Quinqagesima Sunday—7 February AD 2016



Theos agapēn estin
God is love [*]

Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English
Lenten Observance

If I should have all faith, so that I could remove mountains,
and have not charity, I am

    Saint Paul wrote this beautiful epistle in Greek, and the word which we translate in Latin as “caritas” and in English as “charity”  was originally “agapēn   (ἀγάπην)” which is the Greek word for love that does not seek any sort of physical reward in return—a disinterested love, much like the love of a parent for a child, and not the romantic love of a man and a woman.[2]  It is obvious from the context that the word does not designate the relief of the poor as it normally does in English:  “if I should distribute all my goods to feed the poor …and have not charity, it profits me nothing.”[3] 

    But, let us be clear, the relief of the poor is an important aspect of the disinterested love that we should have for the less fortunate.

    The Church has us read Paul’s words in conjunction with the Gospel from Saint Luke to prepare us for the realization that God had just this sort of disinterested love for fallen men and women that He sent His only Son into the world to “be delivered to the Gentiles, and … mocked, and scourged, and spit upon; and …put to death.”[4]  At the time, His Apostles did not understand what He was speaking about.

    It was probably just inconceivable to them.  Some time earlier, in Cæsarea Philippi, just after conferring the Primacy on Saint Peter, He revealed to them:  “that he must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the ancients and scribes and chief priests, and be put to death, and the third day rise again.”[5]  No doubt this sounded like senseless violence that could be prevented.  Peter immediately rebuked Him: “Lord, be it far from thee, this shall not be unto thee.”  But our Lord turned around to Peter, who was our first Pope, saying:  “Get behind me, Satan, thou art a scandal unto me: because thou savourest not the things that are of God, but the things that are of men.”[6]

    Not that this would deter Peter, who accompanied Jesus to Mount Thabor to witness His transfiguration , and suggested that the mountain top might be a good place to “hide out” until things “cooled down” in Jerusalem:  “Lord, it is good for us to be here.  Let us build three tents here….”[7]

    What the Apostles did not then understand, and what many people do not understand today, is that the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was the supreme act of disinterested love of the Creator for His adopted children.  Through the sin of Adam and Eve (and through their own personal sins) men and women had lost any possibility of entering the Kingdom of Heaven.  Sin is an offence against God—who is infinite—by His lowly and insignificant creatures.

    In human terms, we might imagine unkempt, half naked, dirty and smelly peasants entering the throne room of a king, shouting insults at him and leaving muddy footprints behind.  But even such an image widely misses the mark, for God is infinitely above the men who insult Him.  There is absolutely nothing that fallen mankind could offer God in reparation.

    This is why Jesus Christ entered human history, taking human form from the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Sinless God, born of a uniquely sinless woman would  intercede with the Father as mankind’s high priest, and perfect sacrificial victim, offering Himself  in sacrifice for the sins of the world.  “No greater love than this has any man, then he lay down his life for his friends….  These things I command you, that you love one another[8]

    “Love one another.”  So now we see clearly the reason for connecting Paul’s  epistle on love to this Gospel predicting the Crucifixion.  If we are fruitfully to receive the gift of God’s love, we must believe in Him, obey His Commandments, and love one another.  “If I should have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

    Next year, the Protestant churches will celebrate the five-hundredth anniversary of what they call a “Reformation.”  One of the foundation stones of that so-called “Reformation” was Martin Luther’s heresy that men and women are “saved by faith alone.”  What Luther called “faith” was actually a sort of presumptuous and often emotional misuse of the virtue of hope.  By proclaiming complete trust in Jesus Christ, one would become “saved.”  It did not matter that later one might do good or bad, for Luther said he was already “saved.”  He wrote “Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong, but let  your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world.[9]  He is often translated from the German as “sin mightily”—a very dangerous idea, to be sure!

    But our Lord tells us “If you would enter into life, keep My Commandments.”[10]  In fact the phrase “keep My Commandments” occurs over five hundred times in the Bible![11]  In both Testaments of the Bible, God regularly exhorts us to perform the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.

    To be sure, Protestants and Protestant churches are known for doing a great deal of good works.  But the concept of “salvation through faith alone” is a very dangerous one.  Faith is belief in what God has revealed to be true—it is not wild eyed presumption on God’s mercy. Sin requires contrition, Confession, absolution, and penance.  Even genuine faith, by itself is not enough, for as Saint James tells us:  “The devils also believe and [yet they] tremble.”[12]


If I should have all faith, so that I could remove mountains,
and have not charity, I am




[1]   Epistle: 1 Corinthians xiii: 1-13    

[4]   Gospel: Luke xviii: 31-43

[12]   James 2: 16-26 (specifically v. 19)


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