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A Christian is the one whose behavior and heart reflects Jesus Christ. Christian virtues are the practical attitudes and habits in obedience to the principles in conformity to the message of Jesus Christ. They are associated with salvation resulting from the grace of God. Virtues are qualities which dispose one to conduct oneself in a morally good manner. Virtue means strength or power. They connect us to God. They are the essentials of Christian life.
If we desire to cooperate with the actions of God who wishes to make us like Himself, we should apply ourselves with great zeal to the practice of the virtues. St. Teresa of Jesus says that the life of union with God urges us to practice virtues. She says, “You must not build upon the foundation on prayer and contemplation alone, for unless you strive after the virtues and practice them, you will never grow to be more than a dwarf”.
We shall become Saints only in the measure in which we practice virtues. To live the virtues, we must have sufficient courage to persevere a long time in the struggle against our faults, and in the efforts to acquire the opposite virtues. The Lord who has created man in his own image and likeness wants us to be holy as He is holy by saying, “Be ye holy because I am holy” (John 17:14-16).
From this week, for few weeks to come, I will be writing on different virtues that will help to change our attitudes and make new habits. It will enlighten us if we cooperate with the grace of God. It is my prayer that God may help us rapidly in the path of virtues.
Gratitude is a quality of being thankful, readiness to show appreciation to God and to every person, and to return kindness. We acknowledge a kindness by showing gratitude to the benefactor. God is our benefactor and all that we have and are belongs to God. There is nothing that we can claim as our own. It is all because of God’s infinite generosity and goodness. “In all things give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you all” (1 Thes 5:18). When Jesus cured 10 lepers, only one out of them returned to thank and show gratitude. Jesus asked the one who returned, “Where are the other nine?” (Lk 17:17-18). See the irreparable loss of the nine lepers who, not returning to give thanks, forfeited the joy of the leper who heard Jesus say: “Thy faith has made you whole” (Lk 17:19).
St. Bernard says, “Ingratitude is the enemy of the soul, the destroyer of merit and virtue, causing the loss of favors. It is a burning wind which dries up the fountain of piety, the dew of mercy, the torrents of grace”. Gratitude attracts new graces, new gifts. Gratitude should be sincere and cordial to all the gifts received, whether small or big. Gratitude flourishes only in a heart that is humble.
O my God, give me a grateful heart, that I may sing Your praises forever.
Perseverance means persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success. Our motto is to be holy and be united with God. It is not enough to be courageous, patient or have other Christian virtues. We must persevere to the end of our lives without fatigue or discouragement to achieve holiness. It is only in perseverance that we can become holy. Unlike the angels who have only the spirit, we unhuman beings have both body and spirit and hence, we are unstable and changing. Though we make resolutions in our mind, we are weak to keep the same by nature. Our bodies get tired, and our minds are too disturbed to keep our promises.
God always calls us to holiness, but not to perfection. God never asks impossible things from us. Perseverance does not mean that we need to be perfect, but rather constantly beginning again as soon as any failure is recognized. Our failures should make us humble and start again by correcting our faults. Only by the continual intervention of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, can we completely overcome our weakness and faults and persevere in holiness. We need continual practice of the virtue of perseverance in order to be holy and be united with God.
Grant O Lord, that by Your grace I may persevere unto the end.
Generosity is a willingness to give without selfish motives. It is the virtue which teaches us to spend ourselves without counting the cost, without ever saying, “It is enough”. It teaches us to give ourselves completely, and to work with the maximum of love, not only in great things, but also in little ones, even the least. Generosity means to have a desire to always do more or something extra. It is giving ourselves to God as a gift.
To be generous, we need to detach ourselves from the worldly desires and forget ourselves to serve God and our neighbor. Generosity is a total gift of self. To love is to give. God does not give Himself wholly to us until He sees that we are giving ourselves wholly to Him.
Selfishness is the enemy of generosity. What all we have, time, talent and treasure, are the generous gifts of God to us that we may share. Let us be generous in all that we have and give to God and our neighbor in service.
Prayer: Fill my heart with Your spirit of generosity, O Lord, so that I may know how to give myself wholly to Your service.
Simplicity is the state or quality of being simple. It excludes duplicity and complications stemming from egoism and self-love and directs the soul to God to live for Him alone, to please Him, and to give glory to Him. When the soul is purified from worldly desires and passions, it is reduced to simplicity.
The end of simplicity is God with no other motives or intentions. Hence, one has to carefully watch over even the secondary intentions of our good actions, which slowly like poison can sometimes destroy the soul. Our good intentions are contaminated by some secondary intentions. That is why St. Francis de Sales says, “My God, if I know that even one fiber of my heart did not beat for You, I would tear it out at once and throw it far from me”. Purifying our intentions makes all our actions simple. It fears nothing because it is seeking God and His approval alone. The simple soul goes straight to God like an arrow. Jesus gives us a child as an example of simplicity. Let us be simple like children in our hearts and in our relations with one another.
Prayer: O Lord, give me a simple heart, free from duplicity and deceit, a heart which goes to You with childlike simplicity.
Fr. Louis Maram Reddy