Benedict XVI this year is calling the faithful to reflect during Lent on “Believing in charity calls forth charity.”
This is the title of his annual Lenten address, dated last October, and released recently by the Vatican.
ZENIT interviewed Cardinal Robert Sarah, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, which oversees the Church’s charity work, about the Lenten message.
ZENIT: How can a believer live this Lent through the practice of charity?
Cardinal Sarah: Lent is a favorable time, given to us by the Church, to strengthen our relationship with the Lord. We must remember, however, that our relationship with God is intensified in prayer, in the sacramental life, especially through the Eucharist, source of love and of our giving ourselves to others. From the sublime act of self-giving of Christ on the cross, every believer is called to live his life offering all his being to his brothers and sisters. And the practice of charity is a concrete way for the believer to receive Christ in his daily life, embracing the needs of his brother. It must not be forgotten that every act of Christian charity, is not only a material support, but a concrete recognition in the needy brother the face of the poor and suffering Jesus. One who really loves the poor loves Jesus.
ZENIT: In his Message the Pope said that love will never be a finished, complete reality. So, when will we have finished doing good?
Cardinal Sarah: Love and kindness are like God. They have no end. Never stop loving and doing good, because to love and do good is to be like God. Eternal is His love for us, says Psalm 118. The affirmation of this year’s Lenten Message stresses that God’s love isn’t an abstract reality, but one which can be experienced in life. God is love, as the Holy Father reminded us in his first encyclical, so that any person who wishes to be profoundly united to Him, can only do so through love. As Christians we are called throughout our life to adhere constantly to Jesus’ new commandment to love one another as He has loved us, so that in this way our life can come to a good end. Easter highlights the total and constant love that God has for man. He has loved us to the point of giving his life for us and He loved us to the end. On the cross He even forgave his persecutors. Therefore, Christ himself told us with his life that we are called to love for ever. We can never say we have loved enough. One who wishes to know love must love always.
ZENIT: The text warns of an exaggerated primacy of charity, describing it as moral activism. Where in the Church is there a risk of moral activism?
Cardinal Sarah: The Holy Father’s Lenten Message for this year stresses the importance of keeping the two theological virtues of faith and charity united and lived every day. If charity alone is given importance, it’s evident that it’s reduced to moral activism, doing good that in some way gives consolation to one’s conscience. Therefore, acts of charity must always stem from faith if one is to remain in full communion with the Lord. Hence the risk of moral activism is present in all those areas of charitable commitment separated from the opportunity to present the love of God, as a way, ultimately, of making God present. When in one’s acting one doesn’t start from faith, charitable acts are reduced to a pure form of social service.[Translation by ZENIT]
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On the Net:
Benedict XVI’s 2013 Lent Message: www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/messages/lent/documents/hf_ben-xvi_mes_20121015_lent-2013_en.html