Memorial of the Passion of Saint John the Baptist
Many of us who lived through a certain era were exposed, as children, to a form of religious education that put so much stress on loving God and neighbor that other central truth claims of the Catholic faith were either ignored entirely or given inadequate presentation. As a result, we were often bewildered and even confounded when we encountered complex arguments against Catholic dogma. We might wish that someone had taken aside those old teachers who chose to dwell almost exclusively on divine love and hammer into them this line from St. Paul: “On the subject of fraternal charity you have no need for anyone to write you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another” (1 Thess 4:9).
There is something unique about learning to love one another that causes St. Paul to hesitate. This is strange because, usually, St. Paul has a lot to say. It must be that the teaching of charity is different from, say, the teaching of chess. To encourage a student to play chess, a teacher can offer an incentive, such as a piece of candy. To teach charity, on the other hand, no incentive can be offered. Should a teacher try to offer an incentive, such as a piece of candy, then the student will love the other person in order to get the candy, and this is not yet charity.
To love someone for the sake of their own goodness is not always easy. We often need help and guidance. May God teach us the way, God who is, himself, the way, and the truth and the life, forever blessed and glorious. Amen.