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We cannot separate faith and charity

· In his Message for Lent the Pope recalls that everything proceeds from Love and tends towards Love ·

There is neither separation nor opposition between faith and charity. Because in Christian life “everything proceeds from Love and tends towards Love”, the Pope explains in his Message for Lent, made public this morning, Friday, 1 February. “God’s gratuitous love”, the Pope writes, “is made known to us through the proclamation of the Gospel. If we welcome it with faith, we receiv everything proceeds from Love and tends towards Love e the first and indispensable contact with the Divine, capable of making us 'fall in love with Love', and then we dwell within this Love, we grow in it and we joyfully communicate it to others”.

From this perspective service to others is not an imposed command, rather “a consequence deriving from their faith, a faith which becomes active through love”. This is an attitude that in Christians essentially arises “from the consciousness of being loved, forgiven, and even served by the Lord”.

It therefore becomes clear that “we can never separate, let alone oppose, faith and charity”. Two theological virtues are involved and “intimately linked”. “It is misleading to posit a contrast or 'dialectic' between them”. “For a healthy spiritual life”, Benedict XVI warns, it is necessary to avoid fideism which insisting on the priority of faith ends by almost despising “concrete works of charity”. It is also necessary to avoid moral activism which in the name of  overstating “the primacy of charity” nourishes the incorrect conviction that “works could take the place of faith”.

“In the Church, contemplation and action...  have to coexist and complement each other”, the Pontiff states. Even if, he adds, “the relationship with God must always be the priority, and any true sharing of goods, in the spirit of the Gospel, must be rooted in faith”. With this Benedict XVI warns against the temptation “to reduce the term 'charity' to solidarity or simply humanitarian aid” In reality, it recalls the “greatest work of charity is evangelization, which is the 'ministry of the word' that is “the highest and the most integral promotion of the human person”.

In conclusion the Pope recommends that we live Lent as a propitious time to rediscover the just relationship between faith and charity. Lent, he writes, “invites us, through the traditional practices of the Christian life, to nourish our faith by careful and extended listening to the word of God and by receiving the sacraments, and at the same time to grow in charity and in love for God and neighbour, not least through the specific practices of fasting, penance and almsgiving”.

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