28 October 2021

28 October, Antonio, Cardinal Bacci: Meditations For Each Day

Divine Worship, Charity, and Justice

1. “Divine Worship.” We have a strict duty to honour and obey God. “I, the Lord, am your God,” He tells us in the first commandment of the Decalogue. “You shall not have other gods besides me.” We are obliged, therefore, to worship God both internally and externally, since both soul and body are created by God. Internal worship is especially necessary, for without it external worship would be an empty formality. It is useless to kneel before the altar, to assist at sacred rites, and to recite vocal prayers, if all the time our minds are elsewhere and we are lacking in the love of God. Spiritual adoration and prayer are more important than the bowed head and the bended knee.

It would be a grave error, however, to imagine that internal adoration is sufficient and that there is no need to assemble in the church, to observe feast days, or to participate in sacred rites and receive the Sacraments as the Church commands. Everything should be subject to God. The Church was founded by Christ and endowed by Him with the authority to lay down the exact manner in which we should pay homage to Almighty God. She has the right to dictate the feasts and ceremonies in which we are obliged to participate. Anyone who refuses to obey the Church is guilty of disobedience to God. “He who hears you, hears me,” said Jesus Christ to His Apostles and through them to their successors, “and he who rejects you, rejects me. “ (Luke 10:16)

How do we adore God? Are we among those who pray with their lips and not from the heart? Or do we believe that private devotion is quite sufficient and that there is no need to subject ourselves to all the laws of the Church? In either case we should have gone astray and should be unable to gain God’s favour.

2. “Charity.” “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. (1 John 4:16) Charity is the fundamental rule of the Gospel; if a man has no charity, he is not a Christian. Charity is two-fold, consisting in the love of God and the love of our neighbour. One cannot exist without the other. Jesus calls this His own commandment, on which His entire law depends.

Charity is the leaven of Christianity which sanctifies everything. Consequently, divine worship without charity is both absurd and offensive to God.

“If thou art offering thy gift at the altar,” Jesus tells us, “and there rememberest that thy brother has anything against thee, leave thy gift before the altar and go first to be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” (Mt. 5:23-24)Worship is valueless without charity, which must take precedence. If we do not love God and our neighbour, it is useless to perform outward acts of adoration.

3. “Justice.” Charity without justice has no proper foundation and cannot be genuine. Charity is the perfection and the complement of justice. “Love,” as St. Paul says, “is the fulfilment of the Law.” (Rom. 13:10)

It is impossible to love God and our neighbour sincerely unless we are first prepared to give to everyone whatever rightly belongs to him.

God prefers justice and charity to external worship. “Woe to you Pharisees!” said Jesus Christ, “because you pay tithes on mint and rue and every herb, and disregard justice and the love of God. (Luke 11:42) It is obvious from this that if we wish to observe the divine law we must first of all be just and charitable. Justice is particularly necessary, for it is absurd to claim that we love our neighbour as ourselves if we are unwilling to give to our fellow-men whatever is his by right. Therefore they are not sincere Christians who make a show of being charitable and giving alms but fail to meet all the demands of justice, including those of social justice. Let us examine ourselves carefully and, if we find that we are guilty of any kind of injustice, let us make up for it as soon as possible.

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