Pity comes from the old French word, “pite,” which has a variety of meanings connected to mercy, compassion, care, tenderness. However, pity is a feeling, which is short-lived and temporary in nature. We can feel pity for someone but that does not necessarily move us toward a concrete action of charitable love nor personal self-giving service. We can feel sorrow and moved with compassion for someone who is experiencing misfortunes, but that does not necessarily mean that we are able to move toward a personal loving concern for that person. However, charity is different than pity because true charity is based on real love.
Charity comes from the Latin word, “caritas,” which means love. Therefore when we say that God is love, “Deus caritas est” in Latin, we understand that God‘s very own existence is love. Nevertheless, it is not just some ordinary or self-centered understanding of love, but the real personal, life-giving, self-donating love that overflows from His very essence and existence toward creation, salvation, and the continual works of sanctification. Therefore, for us as Christians, it is not enough to simply feel sadness for the suffering or misfortunes of others, for we are called to move toward a real concrete, self-giving love of service for those who are around us.
In the heart-warming encounter with the sinful woman who was looked down on, despited, and ignored by self-righteous people, the Lord Jesus Christ not only pitied her, but He forgave her sins out of love because “she has shown great love.” (cf. Luke 7:47) In response to her humility and persistence in spite of other people’s judgment and displeasure, the Lord forgave her of her sins: “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (4:50) As a matter of fact, our Savior, over and over again, was moved with genuine loving faith, not just some sentimental, shallow, temporary, or earthly niceties. He performed miracles because of people’s genuine faith and trust in Him, because true love moves the heart, even that of God‘s.
When we receive from the Almighty‘s divine forgiveness and love, we got to in turn share it with others through the real, heartfelt, personal, and self-giving service of others. Our Christian love is missionary and life-giving in nature because once we have known and received the great joy that results from a relationship with the Lord, it simply cannot be contained and becomes impossible for us not to share it with those who are around us. Our whole faith is grounded in God‘s own faithful and sacrificial gift, who pursued and gave His life to redeem and save ours even when we did not deserve it.
The famous political philosopher, Edmund Burke, once said: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Hence, that is why feeling pity or sorrowful, being sentimentally sad or feeling compassion for those who are suffering, enduring wrong or misfortune, is not enough. We have to move this feeling toward a personal, self-giving gift of love, relying on divine grace and grounded in our personal relationship with the Almighty, to be good servants of our fellow citizens of the earth. This love is enlivened through our commitment to real social justice, living our baptismal vocation, serving those who are around us in our particular state of life, sowing the seeds of divine truth and peace in our community, as well as encouraging one another to live a life of virtues. We are called to be modest, humble, honest, and willing to make an effort to care beyond basic emotions or feelings.
Christian charity and its love should move to address poverty with real compassion, patience, and commitment. Hence, we are not just talking about poverty in the materialistic sense, but also poverty in the moral and emotional sense. Our charity motivates us to see beyond the moral destitution and hopelessness that cause many people to be enslaved by addictive behaviors and practices like alcohol, drugs, gambling, pornography, meaningless sexual exchanges, or the constant wandering in a life of vice. So many people have lost hope and no longer see a deeper meaning in life. Hence, it has become easier to live in the present moment with false hedonistic happiness that will ultimately cause many to be isolated, emotionally unstable and frail, enslaved by addictive vices and sins. Therefore, in the world of half-lies, we are called to go out to meet the forgotten, downtrodden, and hopeless ones who are suffering but are too scared to let go of their codependent lifestyle to let them know the true liberation and freedom found in Christ Jesus. We are called to give more than false tolerance, detached pity, and shallow compassion that sound nice but leave people sinking and dying in their own (false) righteous and self-centered miseries!
Furthermore, true Christian charity moves us beyond political polarities, divisiveness, extremism, and self-righteousness. We are reminded that we are first of God, then of our society. We are called to let the light of truth defines our politics and government instead of bringing lesser humanistic and socialistic understanding into our lives of faith by allowing them to dictate and define us as someone or something else different than who we truly are — children of God! St. Thomas More was ever loyal to the King and his country, but he did not yield to the King‘s wrongdoings. He declared: “I die the King’s good servant, and God’s first.” In the day and age where we are losing our peace and becoming more divisive because of politics, we are reminded very clearly that we belong to God first! Our citizenship is of heaven, for eternity. (cf. Philippians 3:20-21) Hence, only from this eternal scope and everlasting values grounded by the life of faith and real worship can we truly be free to shape, form, and challenge our government and society to conform to the will of God and His commandments. If any personal or social law is contradictory to the natural, divine, and eternal laws, it is our duty and responsibility to object in order to protect the integrity and faithfulness to His will.
Therefore, in all things, we are motivated by Christian love and animated by true charity. This is what we are called to do in living out our baptismal vocation by caring for one another just as He has lovingly cared for us. We are called to rise above the merely sentimental, emotional, or bureaucratic matters, fashions, hypes, popular opinions, trends, ideologies, and definitions to be close to God and one another in genuine love and service. We are the Church, redeemed, saved, and loved into being by the Lord, so we have to live and give testimony to this immense love in our very own life, worship, teaching, prayer, and devotion so that we can bring many people closer to Him. When we put into practice true charity and love, others will be able to seek Him and see His presence by seeing how we know, love, and serve our Beloved. We live in this honest yearning, humble trust, and daily commitment of self-giving love and service until the day when He calls us to Himself. No matter how imperfect we are, as long as we try with all honesty and humility, we can bring people to Him; and hopefully, one day is remembered by those who know us of how much and greatly we have tried to love God and our neighbors. (cf. Luke 7:47)