By Msgr Gabriel Osu
Love is a strong bond that binds. It is a unifying factor; the true essence that brings people together and enable them live in harmony, devoid of all forms of rancour. We need love in all aspects of our lives, from the homefront to the larger society. But for love to be truly effective, it must be embedded in charity, which is the theolo-gical virtue by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God.
According to the teachings of the Catholic Church on charity, “…It is that habit or power which disposes us to love God above all creatures for Himself, and to love our-selves and our neighbours for the sake of God. When this power or habit is directly infused into the soul by God, the virtue is supernatural; when it is acquired through repeated personal acts, it is natural.
In the book of John 13: 34-35, Christ stressed the importance of love to humanity when he said to his disciples thus: “A new co-mmandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” The Apostle Paul has given an incomparable depiction of charity: “charity is patient and kind, charity is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Charity does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Charity bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Apostle Paul also said: “I am nothing.” What-ever my privilege, service, or even virtue, “if I . . . have not charity, I gain nothing.” Charity is superior to all the virtues. It is the first of the theological virtues: “So faith, hope, charity abide, these three. But the greatest of these is charity.
The fruits of charity are joy, peace, and mercy; charity demands beneficence and fraternal correction; it is benevolence; it fosters reciprocity and remains disinterested and generous; it is friendship and commun-ion: Love is itself the fulfillment of all our works. There is the goal; that is why we run: we run toward it, and once we reach it, in it we shall find rest.
We are all called to be charitable. It should be a way of life. We don’t necessarily have to wait for festive or solemn periods like Easter or Ramadan to show charity to others. We are expected to show love to our neighbours on daily basis because we can never over-due God in charity. What is charity? Charity essentially means to show love to others in words and deeds, and the bible tells us that God is love. If God is love, then we are called to exhibit the attributes of love on daily basis.
That is what stands us out as children of God. The reason why religious bodies de-signate a particularly period to stress charity is just to put us on guard, to remind us that no matter how pre-occupied we may be with the challenges of life, we must always spare time to reflect on the goodness of God. That is, we must always be mindful of the need to draw God at all times. It is just to put us on the alert because some of us tend to forget on our responsibilities.
Those who make it a habit to exhibit their works of charity are merely trying to quickly reap their rewards here on earth. Christ told us that we should not make noise over such deeds like the Pharisees do, so that God can reward us in secret. Remember that empty barrels make the loudest noise. To put the record straight, the Catholic Church does not, and has never approved of advertising charity works in the media.