instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Friday, March 09, 2007

By friendship a thing is loved in two ways

There are two kinds of acts of love that charity leads us to do. One is love of God Himself (or neighbors themselves). The other is love of the good things we wish for God (or neighbors). In both cases, we can say we are loving in charity.

What happens if we do only the first kind of act? Bad things.
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven."

"If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,' but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it?"
The second kind of act, the act of love of some good thing, is an act whose object is the good thing you want God or your neighbor to have.

The key thing here is that it is an act. It's not just something you think would be nice, or something you merely wish for your friend. It's something you do. You perceive that this thing would be good for your friend, so you go about getting it for him (or at least helping him to get it).

So far so good, but who doesn't know all this?

Children, for starters.

And before you get all sentimental about that picture your budding saint drew for you when you were having a bad day, ask yourself if you've ever said something like, "If you loved me, you'd pick up your room the first time I tell you to."

The link between loving a person and acting for the good of that person is certainly there in most children old enough to say, "I love you, Mommy," but in most of them it's not terribly reliable. I don't know from child development, but my own anecdotal experience with developing children doesn't suggest they come from the womb understanding that their doing what their mother desires them to do is an act of love for her.

Children seem, not just capable of thinking, but perfectly delighted to think, "I love my parents, and I do not wish them to have the good things they want."

Okay, but they're children. What's our excuse?

UPDATE: Sorry, that was a pretty lame conclusion. Sometimes I settle for just the effect and figure the reader will supply the actual reflection. It's an old habit. I had an op-ed column in my college newspaper, and my editor once told me, "You end more articles with three words than anyone else I know."

In any case, the actual reflection would be along these lines: Mature love, true friendship, entails both affection for the loved friend and freely chosen acts for his good. It might be profitable to review our own friendships, with God and others, to ensure that both of these are present, that we aren't in fact loving others in a childish way.