The Three C's
(CHARITY — COURAGE — COURTESY)
God is love. In three brief words, St. John summarized a lifetime of pondering what he had seen and heard during the three years he lived with the Incarnate Son of God. God is love — but not just any kind of love. St. Jerome highlighted this distinction whe translating St. John's words from Greek into Latin.. Deus caritas est. God is CHARITY —precious love, costly love, selfless love, infinitely giving love.
If CHARITY is a virtue so great that many theologians consider it THE virtue, how can we count it among the "little" virtues? Because charity, like God, has a way of making itself small. Charity "fits" itself into every situation. It ennobles and enhances and elevates even the smallest human action. It complements and completes every human virtue. When charity "teams up" with any other virtue, great things happen.
COURAGE without charity, for example, can run the risk of being little more than bravado or recklessness. Charity anchors courage in the greater good, the greater giving, helping us not only to face danger and difficulty without fear, but also to endure them with, in and for Christ. Without charity, COURTESY can disintegrate into superficial politeness, mere flattery or even facetiousness. Twinned with charity, courtesy becomes a reflection of the divine consideration which surrounds and accompanies all of creation.
Jesus, God-in-the-flesh, was a Man of COURAGE, Even His enemies acknowledged His courage in the face of opposition, misunderstanding and ill treatment. Jesus went bravely forward to His Passion and death because He loved the Father. Not even death itself could deflect Him from obediently fulfilling the will of His Father for the salvation of the world.
Jesus, God-in-the-flesh, was likewise a Man of exquisite COURTESY. Our Lord was such a gentleman! a priest once exclaimed, pointing out some of the Gospel passage where Jesus' courtesy shines forth, The rudeness, coarseness and even cruelty of His opponents never dampened our Lord's celestial civility, all the more amazing because it was the response of One who was the Creator and Savior of the fallen creatures who were insulting Him.
It can take a great deal of courage to be courteous. We think of that pivotal moment in the conversion of St, Francis when he met the leper. It was courage permeated by charity which enabled the future saint to leap the chasm of human repugnance, and not merely to toss a coin into the leper's outstretched hand, but to embrace and kiss the deformed man before him.There are also times when courage must be tempered with courtesy. The meeting of St, Francis with the Sultan is a good example. No doubt the Sultan was impressed by Francis' courage in coming to meet him. But what opened his heart to listen to his message was the courtesy which informed the saint's proclamation of Christ. While the Sultan did not convert, it is probably safe to say that he never forgot what Francis had expounded to him with such engaging zeal. For, under-girding Francis' courteous and courageous proclamation of Christ was Francis' Christ-like love for the Sultan, a man, like himself, made in God's image and redeemed by Christ's Blood.CHARITY — COURAGE — COURTESY These three Cs can transform us into true mirrors of CHRIST, Himself the source and exemplar of redeeming love, saving courage and that delicate grace of God which is courtesy.