Sunday, 18 April 2021

18 April, Antonio, Cardinal Bacci: Meditations For Each Day

Putting Christianity into Practice

1. Imagine what the world would be like if the Gospel of Christ were practised in its entirety everywhere and by everybody. It would not, of course, become another earthly Paradise, because suffering and death are the legacy of sin and Our Lord did not remove these when He redeemed us but made them a necessary element in our purification and spiritual elevation. Nevertheless, the full practice of Christianity would transform the world. A little reflection will convince us of this. Men would love God above all things and their neighbour as themselves. The sincere and ardent love of God would cause wickedness, brutality and every kind of immorality to disappear. Love of their neighbour would make men brothers in reality, so that there would be no more wars nor threats of conflict. The enormous wealth which is squandered on weapons of destruction could then be diverted to good works. There would be no more poverty, because if men loved one another those who had more than enough would give to those in want. There would be no more prisons, because there would be no more criminals. There would be no need for a police force because everyone would do his duty of his own accord. The reign of love, which is the reign of Jesus Christ, would triumph upon earth. Excessive wealth and the selfish love of ease and pleasure would disappear on one hand, while on the other the extreme need of those who can never be sure of a meal, nor of a roof over their heads, would be palliated until they had been raised to a standard of living consistent with the laws of God and with the dignity of men. The love of our neighbour as ourselves would solve every individual and social problem in this life. Men would grow into a vast community of brothers devoid of all barriers of hate, selfishness, and greed. This is not a Utopian dream, because it is the clear teaching of the Gospel. Jesus did not preach the impossible. He taught us the standards of the perfect life which we are all obliged to try and lead.

2. It was something like this which took place in the early years of the Church, when the love of God and of their neighbour was a transforming leaven in the lives of the faithful. “Give that which remains as alms,” Christ has said, “and behold, all things are clean to you.” (Luke 11:41) This precept was not, at this time, a dead letter, nor was it interpreted in a selfish and quibbling manner. It was a lofty reality. “Now the multitude of the believers were of one heart and one soul,” the Acts of the Apostles relates, “and not one of them said that anything he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common... Nor was there anyone among them in want. For those who owned lands or houses would sell them and bring the price of what they sold and lay it at the feet of the apostles, and distribution was made to each, according as any one had need.” (Acts 4:32-35) This is what it really means to love one's neighbour. It could not be called Communism, for that is a system of oppression which violates the laws of nature and the most sacred rights of humanity, such as the liberty, dignity and faith of the individual. No, this is Christian charity, the charity which complements and ennobles justice. Nobody was under any obligation to sell all he had and give it to the poor (Cf. Acts 5:4), for to do so was not a command but an evangelical counsel of perfection. (Cf Mt. 19:21) Everybody believed, however, that he had an obligation to love his neighbour as if he were himself.

Do you love your neighbour as yourself? Take a look around you. How many people have no food, whereas you may have too much? How many have no home, while you have far more possessions than you need? How many live in squalor, while you may be surrounded by luxuries? Remember that you are not a sincere Christian, but only a fraud, if you do not love your neighbour as yourself. It may be true that this is only a matter of charity, not of strict justice. But, as St. Alphonsus said, it is much the same thing if a man is damned for lack of charity as for lack of justice. Meditate on this with a view to forming generous resolutions.

3. Only the universal practice of Christianity could change the world. Even after a period of twenty centuries it is true to say that for many Christians the Gospel is an unexplored book, the principles of which have yet to be fully realised in their ordinary lives. None of us can change the world on his own, but each of us can accomplish that part of the task which depends on himself. Do we really love God whole-heartedly and above all things? Do we really love our neighbour as ourselves? Let us examine ourselves earnestly and find out how far we have still to go. Our love of God may be too feeble and this may be the reason why we have not achieved spiritual perfection. Our love of our neighbour may not be as generous as it should be. If this is so, we shall have to answer for it to God when He pronounces that terrible sentence on those who have been rejected: “Depart from me, accursed ones, into the everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry, and you did not give me to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not take me in, naked and you did not clothe me; sick and in prison, and you did not visit me.” (Mt. 26:41-43) Let us resolve to be charitable and generous to the poor.

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