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The Charity of the First Christians.. and Ours


They kept the longed for horizon in their mind, though it wasn't in front of their eyes. On that horizon was heaven, and in that heaven their destiny with God, and in God. They confessed the truth without fear, and they were not afraid to pour out their love for their neighbor, especially those closest to them, the other Christians, the other Christs like them who shared the pain of this life. The horizon was dark in the world, but bright in that promised dawn as they held the victory of faith in their hands. They knew how to give because they did not forget that they had received. Faith, Hope and Charity were three but one indivisible thing, like God's own Trinity. They believed, they hoped and they loved. They were true Christians. And that's why they were being persecuted and killed. The world was not for them, those who loved the world did not tolerate them.

These words invite us to reflect on ourselves amidst these dark times in which we live. We say dark, not so much because darkness surrounds us, but because we are unable to see. In today's world there is a lot of talk about poverty, charity and humility, but this is [usually] done with hypocrisy and deceit. We however, don't talk much of poverty and charity, not because we strive for them and practice them, but because we have forgotten them. Indifferent in our own worldly occupations or in our own heavenly occupations, and more occupied with seeing what others do or fail to do, are we still able to think of such things? Our charity, like our faith, has no substitute. Neither is there a substitute for our neighbor. If we do not love our neighbor, whom we see, how can we love God, whom we do not see? The problem is that we stop seeing our neighbor in order to take care of "great things". And the problem one doesn't see is a problem one doesn't understand. Even worse, one doesn't want to understand it. Perhaps many end up saying to each other: "We wandered in darkness and thought we were walking in light" (as Alberto Rougés wrote in a letter to Juan Alfonso Carrizo).

Here is a text we ought to keep in mind in these confusing times that seem to devastate every vestige of sincere and free Christian charity, a few words from the early times, when our brothers in Christ showed their charity in practice:

And the multitude of believers had but one heart and one soul. Neither did any one say that aught of the things which he possessed was his own: but all things were common unto them.  And with great power did the Apostles give testimony of the resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord: and great grace was in them all.  For neither was there any one needy among them. For as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the price of the things they sold,  And laid it down before the feet of the apostles. And distribution was made to every one, according as he had need. (Acts 4:32-35)

And likewise in this similar passage:

Their possessions and goods they sold and divided them to all, according as every one had need.  And continuing daily with one accord in the temple and breaking bread from house to house, they took their meat with gladness and simplicity of heart:  Praising God and having favour with all the people. And the Lord increased daily together such as should be saved.

I look in a mirror and I don't recognize those early Christians in what we are ourselves, I look at what we are in the SSPX and I don't find that fellowship except in name, and in name only. We boast of the integrity of our faith, of the power of our venerable sacraments, of our new churches, and then we return to our own miserable condition without having recognized in our brethren their needs, their destitution, their misfortunes. We blather or go home without having recognized the poverty or pain of those that Christ put on our path. We believe ourselves to be a community, but we are only acquaintances who don't know each other, pedestrians who cross paths without seeing each other, strangers who don't understand each other, who are willing to preserve our great independence within this world, an independence we refuse to repudiate. Sometimes we resemble Job's friends, with our air of self-sufficiency. We have our own interests and tastes all sorted, we have our bad habits and our miserable self, unable to make sacrifices, except in a passionate diatribe of politics and useless criticism, or we're stuck in a religious routine without any interior life. And then we stop speaking when we should speak, when we should give testimony in word and deed. Our ideal is not sanctity, but only the fulfillment of the precepts of the law, a pleasant social life which means nothing else than the evasion of that ideal which we prefer to see realized in priests and religious. And they may not take it seriously either because we don't even remind them of it with our own lives. And so charity grows cold, faith crumbles, words loose their power, to the point where there is no longer even the proclamation of the true, holy and virile words of those who should preach them in public.

St. Jerome said: "What is the use of cladding our walls with precious stones, if Christ is dying of hunger in the person of the poor?" There are those who, in their needs, have recourse more fruitfully - or less in vain - to those who are not even Catholics than to those who are supposed to be their brothers and sisters in the strongest bond of the spirit. We believe we are Christians, but are we? We all go our own way in our own "little world", and we forget that we are not of this world and that our homeland is not here. But little by little, subtly, in small steps, liberalism has been penetrating into our behaviors, and then, into our minds. Are the authorities of the SSPX aware of this, or have they quietly allowed this, because they are no longer able to see? Are they able to see the liberalism and lukewarmness that is spreading among the faithful, perhaps due to the lack of vigilance of their priests, who are immersed in their own subtle gentrification? Will they realize how many sheep have quietly left the corral, none of whom the shepherds went looking for in imitation of the "Good Shepherd", without even trying to understand why they are no longer there? The lack of charity - first of all towards God and for love of his Wisdom - opened the door to a worldly wisdom, vain speculations, political calculations and personal conveniences, followed by a weakness of faith, a doctrinal blindness, ambiguous language, a lukewarmness, an intolerance in the practice [of truth] but a tolerance of error. What is happening today with the SSPX does not come as a surprise at all. What may come as a surprise is that so few are able to see it or dare to say it. But it is necessary that this happens. This purely outward spirit, this secretive spirit, this party spirit, focused on self, is turning what should be a means into an end. In this way, the spirit of the Pharisee began to take shape in the poor publican. But we, have we seen the publican?

As we know, faith and charity have become increasingly weak and cold since the time of the apostles. We've painfully pointed it out. But this decline allows us to better understand that as our own times are more like in the days of the sick religion of the Pharisees, whose eyes were closed and who not being able to see Our Lord killed Him, so also the little flock of Our Lord will be strengthened in it's Faith, Hope and Charity, to the extent that fewer things will bind them to this world which stinks of death. Then it will be known that Faith, ceaselessly guarded and painfully practiced through true Charity, will have been the strongest weapon of union with Christ and the brethren, and then the Hoped for victory of the poor ones will be near, on a dark horizon about to become bright.