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Do you find yourself falling short in showing others true Christian love, especially in these difficult times, when it seems we’re more divided and hardhearted than ever about pandemic, societal, and church-related issues? Let this prayer for charity below help you receive God's graces to be more thoughtful and compassionate!
Jesus gave us all a challenge in the Last Supper discourse when he said that people would know his disciples by the way they loved one another (John 13:34). Many times you might not feel very loving towards others, or don’t know how you possibly can!
Granted, obnoxious bosses, co-workers, family members, and others in general can sorely try your patience. Who do they think they are? “I'm supposed to think of them as my brothers and sisters in Christ, as fellow children of God? On what planet?” you may ask!
Yet, while this sentiment, although all too human, is understandable, it still goes against the grain of the Gospels. As we read in this prayer for charity, we are to aim higher in living God's law of love:
Keep me, O God, from pettiness; let me be large in thought, in word, in deed. Let me be done with fault-finding and self-seeking. May I put away all pretense and meet everyone face to face without self-pity and without prejudice. May I never be hasty in judgment and always generous. Let me take time for all things. Make me grow calm, serene and gentle. Teach me to put into action my better impulses, straightforward and unafraid. Grant that I may realize it is the little things of life that create differences and that in the big things of life we are one. And, O Lord God, let me not forget to be kind!
Regarding fault-finding as this prayer mentions, we can think of our Lord’s words in the Sermon on the Mount, about removing the beam from our own eye before seeking to remove the splinter from our brother’s eye (Matt 7:3-5; Luke 6:41-42). As Jesus said, “with what judgment you judge, you shall be judged” (Matt 7:2).
This doesn’t mean we cannot be discerning in evaluating others' character traits. You probably wouldn't want your teenager going out with a heroin addict who’s had several brushes with the law, for example. (Although it’s always a good idea to pray for such people and, if it's in any way possible, to help them get treatment.)
Yet, so many times we allow our own misplaced pride and envy to make us shut people out of our lives, many times over vain trifles (those “little things” referred to above, such as who gets more attention in a family).
St. Paul spelled out the importance of charity in this famous passage from the first letter to the Corinthians that is so often read at weddings. (Interestingly enough, the traditional Bible translations used the word “charity” rather than love.)
Yet how many of us really stop to try to follow the Apostle's exhortations to put love of others ahead of self-love? He masterfully enumerated the traps that keep us from really being charitable towards others.
Is our love puffed-up, is it jealous, is it self-seeking? Don’t worry if you can’t honestly say it isn’t. Just use St. Paul's words, like this prayer for charity above, as a yardstick on how to do better in following our Lord.
And remember that charity involves recognizing that, while you might not necessarily like someone, much less love them, you can, with God’s grace, pray for them and not wish them harm. That's in part what our Lord meant when he said “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt 5:44).
It doesn’t mean forgoing justice when wronged. But Christ wants us to recognize ourselves, as well as those we have problems with, as sinners in need of His mercy, in all humility.
As Jesus reminds us in St. Matthew's Gospel, we treat Him in how we treat each other (Matt 25:40 and 45). St. Francis de Sales put it so well when he wrote that “to love our neighbor in charity is to love God in man.”