Dear brothers and sisters!
In this Sunday’s liturgy is read one of the most beautiful passages of the New Testament and of the whole Bible: St. Paul’s so-called hymn to charity (1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13). In the First Letter to the Corinthians, after having explained, using the image of the body, that the different gifts of the Holy Spirit are for the benefit of the one Church, Paul shows the “way” of perfection. This way, he says, does not consist in possessing exceptional qualities: speaking new languages, knowing all the mysteries, having a prodigious faith, or doing heroic deeds. It consists rather in charity -- “agape” -- that is, in authentic love, that love that God revealed to us in Jesus Christ.
Charity is the “greatest” gift, which confers worth on others, and yet “does not boast, does not puff up with pride,” indeed, “it rejoices in truth” and the good of others. He who truly loves “does not seek his own interests,” “does not keep track of evil received,” “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7).
In the end, when we will meet God face to face, all the other gifts will disappear; the only one that will remain in eternity will be charity, because God is love and we will be like him, in complete communion with him.
For now, while we are in this world, charity is the Christian difference. The Christian’s whole life is summed up by charity: what he believes and what he does. For this reason, at the beginning of my pontificate, I wanted to dedicate my first encyclical precisely to the theme of love: “Deus caritas est.” As you will remember, in this encyclical there are two parts that correspond to the two components of charity: its meaning and its practice. Love is the essence of God himself, it is the meaning of creation and history, it is the light that gives goodness and beauty to every man’s existence.
At the same time, love is the “style,” of God and the believer, it is the comportment of him who, responding to God’s love, makes his own life a gift of self to God and neighbor.
In Jesus Christ these two aspects form a perfect unity: He is Love incarnate. This love is fully revealed to us in Christ crucified. Fixing our gaze upon him, we can confess with the Apostle John: “We have seen the love that God has for us and we have believed in it” (cf. 1 John 4:16; “Deus Caritas Est,” 1).
Dear friends, if we think of the saints, we see the variety of their spiritual gifts, and also their human characters. But the life of each of them is a hymn to charity, a living canticle to God’s love!Today, Jan. 31, we especially remember St. John Bosco, founder of the Salesian family and patron saint of young people. In this Year for Priests I would like to invoke his intercession so that priests always be educators and fathers for young people; and that, experiencing this pastoral charity, many young people will welcome the call to give their life for Christ and the Gospel. May Mary Our Help, model of charity, obtain these graces for us.
©Copyright 2010 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana