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  • Writer's pictureFr. Scott Haynes

An Increase of Charity

Fr. Scott Haynes


A Meditation for Quinquagesima Sunday 



Septuagesmia Sunday emphasizes the virtue of faith; Sexagesmia Sunday focuses on the virtue of hope, while Quinquagesmia Sunday calls us to charity. Today’s Epistle[1] reminds us, “And now there remain faith, hope, and charity, these three: but the greatest of these is charity.” Inasmuch as Holy Mother Church places this Epistle before us on the Sunday before Lent, we are reminded that our Lenten austerities, our prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, amount to nothing if we fail to intensify our love of God and neighbor. As St. Paul puts it, “If I deliver my body to be burned, yet have not charity, it profits me nothing.”  

 

Godly love, sacrificial love, Christ-like love seeks the good of neighbor without counting the cost. When your neighbor is irksome and difficult it is a real challenge to show charity to him. But this is our Christian vocation—a divine vocation to imitate the charity of our Lord who is generous in mercy and who forgives the sins, faults, and “faux pas” of others quickly.

 

As we stand in the vestibule of Lent, we know that the forty days of Lent are a pilgrimage in which we follow Christ through the desert, into Jerusalem and to Calvary’s mountain. On Quinquagesima Sunday we are taught the lesson that the love of Christ conquers even death. Today’s Gospel[2] provides us a tangible illustration of what it looks like to practice charity in the way St. Paul describes. In this Gospel scene, we behold Christ telling His followers it is time for Him to go up to Jerusalem to offer Himself as a ransom for sinners.  St. Luke writes:

“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things that have been written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man will be accomplished. For He will be delivered to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and scourged and spit upon; and after they have scourged Him, they will put Him to death; and on the third day He will rise again.”  

 

The twelve disciples who heard Jesus announce that He was going to Jerusalem to suffer and die for them were blind to their own situation. Only the blind man, whom they met along the road, could really see. The story is true, but it is written for us so that we should see ourselves in the blind man. What was the blind man doing? He sat by the road begging. The Evangelist is pointing out that this is the condition of mankind. We are beggars before God. We must understand that we are sinners in need of a Savior. When we acknowledge the depravity of our hearts, we can pray like the blind man. When he heard that Jesus was coming, he did not whisper.

“He cried out, saying, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’” 

His cry was a prayer uttered from the depths of his soul. It was a prayer of true humility.

 

The word that St. Luke uses to describe his cry is akin to the roaring of a lion. It is the same word used to describe the cry of Jesus on the cross:

“My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” 

This was no ordinary cry that rose up from the blind man. The crowd attempted to shush him, but because the man knew his nothingness, he cried out to Jesus all the louder. Hope had arrived. God’s love had come in the flesh. The blind man could see what the disciples could not.

 

Faith has only one thing to say–“Lord, have mercy!” Faith says, “Without Jesus I am lost, so I will cry out for His mercy, and will not stop crying out until I receive it.” This is how St. Paul describes the prayer of a man who prays with great earnestness:

“For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’” 

 

In our prayers, we should cry out with the confidence of the blind man. The blind man, you see, was not blind to the truth. He discerned that this Jesus passing by was no ordinary man: He was the Son of David, heir to the throne. But then we see that the blind man regards Jesus as greater than a mere earthly king. He asks Him to do something that only God can do: restore his sight. We too need a recovery of sight. We need to see again how deeply sin is infested in our hearts and how much power we have allowed the devil and the world to have over us.

 

The Lord would not leave us in the misery of sin but would redeem us. Thus, Christ says to His disciples and to us,

“We are going up to Jerusalem.” [3] 

In the face of Jesus’ Passion, most of His followers did not follow. They abandoned Christ.

“But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”[4] 

On Calvary, He bears all our sufferings, all our hurts, all our blindness, all our sadness, all our sins—Jesus bears it all out of love for us.  On the very precipice of Lent, the Scriptures are a clarion call for us to embrace the pattern of Christ’s love and to keep a singular goal for Lent—increase in charity.


Notes

[1] “Brethren: If I should speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have charity, I have become as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal. And if I have prophecy and know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so as to remove mountains, yet do not have charity, I am nothing. And if I distribute all my goods to feed the poor, and if I deliver my body to be burned, yet do not have charity, it profits me nothing. Charity is patient, is kind; charity does not envy, is not pretentious, is not puffed up, is not ambitious, is not self-seeking, is not provoked; thinks no evil, does not rejoice over wickedness, but rejoices with the truth; bears with all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Charity never fails, whereas prophecies will disappear, and tongues will cease, and knowledge will be destroyed. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when that which is perfect has come, that which is imperfect will be done away with. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I felt as a child, I thought as a child. Now that I have become a man, I have put away the things of a child. We see now through a mirror in an obscure manner, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know even as I have been known. So there abide faith, hope and charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” 1 Cor. 13:1-13.

[2] “At that time, Jesus taking to Himself the Twelve said to them, Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things that have been written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man will be accomplished. For He will be delivered to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and scourged and spit upon; and after they have scourged Him, they will put Him to death; and on the third day He will rise again. And they understood none of these things and this saying was hidden from them, neither did they get to know the things that were being said. Now it came to pass as He drew near to Jericho, that a certain blind man was sitting by the wayside, begging; but hearing a crowd passing by, he inquired what this might be. And they told him that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. And he cried out, saying, Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me! And they who went in front angrily tried to silence him. But he cried out all the louder, Son of David, have mercy on me! Then Jesus stopped and commanded that he should be brought to Him. And when he drew near, He asked him, saying, What would you have Me do for you? And he said, Lord, that I may see. And Jesus said to him, Receive your sight, your faith has saved you. And at once he received his sight, and followed Him, glorifying God. And all the people upon seeing it gave praise to God.” Luke 18:31-43.

[3] So too, through Jesus’ victory over the grave, we rise with Him, so that we may go up with Him to the New and Eternal Jerusalem. “For we are buried together with him by baptism into death; that as Christ is risen from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also may walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).

[4] Romans 5:8.

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