for Alfie Evans, 20 Months old.
Socialized medicine in Britain cannot diagnose his problem, refuses to let
him go elsewhere,
and now wants to take him off life-support.
God is love [*]
Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English
τούτων ἡ ἀγάπη
“The greatest of these is love.”
My quotation of the last few words
of the epistle in Greek is more than an affectation—it is important that we
understand what Saint Paul meant by “charity” when he wrote this beautiful
epistle. Agápe [ἀγάπη] is one of three Greek words that translate to
English as “love.” Erotas [έρωτας] and eros [έρως] are the other
two—the first being the mythical love that we associate with Cupid, and the
second being the steamy sort of love that we find in dime store romance
novels. Paul’s use of the word “agape” indicates that he means a
“disinterested love”—a love that is not seeking after any sort of personal
Agápe could be the love of
God, simply because we appreciate His greatness; even with no expectation of
reward. And it could be the disinterested love of our fellow men and
women—simply because we know that God loves them, and because we love God.
In spite of the way the epistle is
translated into English, agape is more than just “charity” in the
sense of giving to the poor—although that sort of “charity” will naturally
spring from love of fellow man.
Agápe certainly extends to
love for fellow Christians, simply because we share the same belief in the
God who loves us. In fact, an early name for holy Mass was “the Agape,”
a sort of “love-feast” where Christians gathered to share the Bread of
Life and Love, in order to physically unite themselves to the God who loves
Agápe can be seen in love of
country, love of children (our own of course, but even those not our own),
love for the homeless and the hungry, and even love of animals. Often, such
loves are translated into significant acts of charity, as people give of
themselves to defend the country, to protect women and children from
violence, to shelter and feed the poor, and to provide for the abandoned
dogs and cats.
The operative idea behind Saint
Paul’s use of “Agape” is undoubtedly the love of God, and the love of
fellow man, whom God loves. But the Latin translation is caritas,
and we must never ignore the cognate “charity”! One might not have the
substance to provide for the cats and the dogs, for the hungry and the
homeless, or for the battered women and children—“not having” should not be
a source of embarrassment—one should, nonetheless love and pray for the
needy—we are all capable of that! But when we are
capable, we are expected to help as we can. Our Lord tells us that the
corporal works of mercy are directed toward Him, at least as much as they
are to the downtrodden: “as long as you did it to one of these my least
brethren, you did it to me.”
As our Lord is one who leads by
example, it is not surprising to hear in today’s Gospel:
Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things shall be accomplished
which were written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man. For he
shall be delivered to the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and
scourged, and spit upon; and after they have scourged him, they will
put him to death; and the third day he shall rise again.
Saint John would later quote Him:
“Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his
But we should not be surprised that
the Apostles had to hear this sort of thing a number of times before it
would sink in. We human beings are accustomed to clinging to
life—sometimes, even to the exclusion of duty. But, with Jesus’ example,
this should become rare amongst us.
It is significant, I believe, that
the Gospel ends with a corporal work of mercy. Our Lord restored sight to a
blind man! I can tell you from personal experience—having lost the sight of
both of my eyes (one at a time) that nothing is more frightening—except,
asthma of course, and the inability to breathe. I thank God for being
alive—for breathing, and seeing.
Not only did our Lord love mankind
enough to die the death of the Cross—He loved us enough to deliver many from
the physical problems of life. Were today not Sunday, we would be
celebrating the Apparition of our Lady at Lourdes. The waters of Lourdes
are almost universally known—there are countless writings, a number of full
length motion pictures, and even a few shorter videos.
The love of Christ is so great that He continues to heal the sick through
the agencies of His most holy Mother.
In his First Epistle, Saint John
In this we have known the charity of God, [literally, the ἀγάπην
of God] because he hath laid down his life for us: and we ought to
lay down our lives for the brethren.
Not all Christians are called to be
martyrs for the Faith, or to otherwise lay down their lives. But, if we
consider that high calling at least a possibility, it is clear that we
should be willing to go to any lesser lengths that may be necessary to aid
those whom we love. And, if we wish to be Christians, our love—our ἀγάπην
must be broad indeed!