October 29: Love is an attitude

In the same section where Pope Francis writes of an hierarchy of virtues, with mercy at the apex of the pyramid, he speaks of the first, most important, requirement of a missionary heart.

“When preaching is faithful to the Gospel, the centrality of certain truths is evident and it becomes clear that Christian morality is not a form of stoicism, or self-denial, or merely a practical philosophy or a catalogue of sins and faults. Before all else, the Gospel invites us to respond to the God of love who saves us, to see God in others and to go forth from ourselves to seek the good of others.”

“Before all else:” Pope Francis likes to speak in this way, highlighting the essential or privileging the first. In his interview with Father Antonio Spadaro, SJ, for instance, he says: “The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you. And the ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all.”

He continues: “The church’s ministers must be merciful, take responsibility for the people and accompany them like the good Samaritan, who washes, cleans and raises up his neighbor. This is pure Gospel. God is greater than sin. The structural and organizational reforms are secondary—that is, they come afterward. The first reform must be the attitude.”

An attitude of loving responsiveness, of seeing God in and seeking the good of others: “All of the virtues are at the service of this response of love,” we read in Evangelii Gaudium. In a stirring footnote, Pope Francis quotes St. Thomas Aquinas again. For God, “mercy, which overcomes the defects of our devotion and sacrifice, is the sacrifice which is most pleasing, because it is mercy which above all seeks the good of one’s neighbour.”

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