Charity: The Love of God

St. Jacob of Alaska

“Let the sowers of strife hear what is written: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.’ On the other hand, let them recognize that if those who make peace are called the ‘sons of God’, then those who confound it are the sons of Satan. Moreover, all those who separate themselves, through discord, from the lifeline of love will wither and die.[…] Therefore, let the sowers of strife consider the extent to which they sin. For when they perpetuate this particular sin, they also eradicate every virtue that they may have in their heart. For in this one evil, they beget many others, because by sowing strife they extinguish charity, which is the mother of all the virtues. And because nothing is more revered by God than the virtue of charity. Therefore, whoever destroys the charity of his neighbor by sowing strife acts as though he were in the service of God’s enemy. For he takes from their hearts this very virtue, which the devil lost before his fall, and he cuts them off from the path by which they might return.”   (St. Gregory the Great – d. 604AD, The Book of Pastoral Rule, pps.154-155)’

St. Gregory the Great
St. Gregory the Great

In these weeks of Great Lent we take note of the divine words of St. Gregory the Great: “nothing is more revered by God than the virtue of charity.”   While the ability to fast from food differs greatly from person to person, all of us can practice charity with neighbor and stranger.  We each are able to make it our Lenten effort to protect and preserve “the charity of our neighbor.”  We contribute to the lives of all when we live so as to enable our neighbor to be charitable.

Sinner, You are My Son

A Gospel Lesson for the 2nd Sunday of Great Lent, Mark 2:1-12:

And again He entered Capernaum after some days, and it was heard that He was in the house. Immediately many gathered together, so that there was no longer room to receive them, not even near the door. And He preached the word to them. Then they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men. And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.” And some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone? But immediately, when Jesus perceived in His spirit that they reasoned thus within themselves, He said to them, “Why do you reason about these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins. He said to the paralytic,  I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house. Immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went out in the presence of them all, so that all were amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

St. Gregory Palamas (d. 1359AD) proclaims about this Gospel:

“‘When Jesus’, it says, ‘saw their faith’, the faith, that is, of the bed-ridden man who had been lowered, and of those who had let him down from the roof, ‘he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son thy sins be forgiven thee’ (Mark 2:5).

What a blessed way to be addressed! He hears himself called ‘son’ and is adopted as the child of the heavenly Father.

He is joined to God who is without sin, having immediately become sinless himself through the forgiveness of his sins. In order that his body can subsequently be renewed, his soul first receives deliverance from sin from the Lord, who knows that in the beginning when the soul fell into the snares of sin, physical illness and death followed, in accordance with His righteous judgment.” (The Homilies, pg. 69)