By: Fr. Roy Cimagala
FOR the simple reason that our human justice can never cope with all the demands and requirements of divine charity as shown by Christ in his passion, death, and resurrection, our human justice should bow to divine charity.
Somehow this was the message of Pope Francis to the Filipino bishops who had their “ad limina” visit to him recently. Love and pray for your persecutors, the Pope was reported to have told the bishops. Imitate Christ, he told them.
Of course, we know that, though he preached about what is right and wrong and who is the way, truth and life for us, Christ in the end just accepted all the indignities all the way to his crucifixion out of love for this Father and all of us.
Christ made no exception in his love for everyone. He even offered mercy to those who crucified him and even went to the extent of finding excuses for them. “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they are doing.” (Lk 23,34)
It was as if the Holy Father was comforting those bishops who have been the object of vitriolic attacks by a politician. It was as if the Holy Father was reminding them that they should not be surprised by these painful developments.
It was as if the Pope was telling them that they have to learn to expect being misunderstood, mocked, insulted and practically given a public crucifixion because that was how Christ himself went through.
“If they persecuted me, they will persecute you as well,” Christ told his disciples. (Jn 15,20) And Christ reminded his disciples that no servant is greater than his master. That’s just how things are.
But the bishops should simply focus on their ministry which is far more important than complaining about being unfairly treated and defending themselves. Yes, they have to proclaim the truth, point out what is right and wrong, etc., but all these should be done without bitterness, anger, much less, hatred. They should avoid giving the slightest signs that they are falling into partisan politics.
Charity and mercy, compassion, understanding and patience should always be obvious in all their actions and reactions. Let’s remember that charity, the charity of God as shown by Christ is the highest and the mother virtue. It is the ultimate truth. It is what makes justice real justice, the justice of God and not just our own idea of justice.
It is this charity that can manage to be above the usual as well as the unusually severe differences and conflicts we can have among ourselves. It has a universal scope. It can even extend to those who clearly reject God, as in, even those who are already in hell.
This charity does not stop just because it is not reciprocated or, worse, because it is contradicted. This is the reason charity is superior to justice. And this is also the reason we just cannot live by justice alone, which has in its core the law of Talion. Our justice cannot fully fathom what is due to us, what we truly deserve. Only God’s charity can.
God’s charity gets more stirred when unreciprocated and contradicted. It will even offer the other cheek. It is always magnanimous, making one willing to suffer and die if only to bring others to the truth, to the right path, to God.
Charity is not scandalized by any evil. Rather it will drown evil with an abundance of good. It will always smile; will always be cheerful and oozing with confidence and serenity. It does not bear grudges even if offended.
Charity will proclaim the truth in season and out of season. And it does stop even if the truth is rejected.
This is the charity of God. It is the highest good we can have. It is God himself who in the First Letter of St. John is described, nay, defined as love. “Deus caritas est.” (cfr. 4,8)