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Ministries, Charisms, Fruits - 18 Kindness

Tuesday, June 09, 2009
Sometimes you’ll hear things said like “I don’t need to be a Christian to be a kind and decent person.” It has to be recognised that there are many kind and decent people in the world who never go near a church. On the other hand, in the letter to the Galatians we hear St Paul speak of kindness as being a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22). This implies that kindness is deeply bound up with being a Christian.

Aristotle describes kindness as helpfulness towards someone in need, not in return for anything, nor for the advantage of the helper himself, but for that of the person helped. Of course, we have to be careful with such a definition. Just because we help someone without regard for any personal advantage, it doesn’t mean we have to be miserable as we help. It is more virtuous to delight in being helpful rather than finding it a burden, but it is essential that kindness springs from a love of others.

Careful consideration also has to be given to what it means to be helpful. Aquinas talks of kindness as something that helps to cure evils. In any kind of evil situation, there is something that is lacking, and so some form of help is needed to restore what is missing. In situations such as rivalry, hatred, jealousy and discord, our response should be kindness, an act of helping those in need. But the kind of help we provide is informed by our Christian faith. Christ died on the cross for our sins and He is conqueror over all evil. Therefore whenever we are confronted with evil, we need to bring Christ into the situation.

From time to time, we see people who are non-Christian, but yet still appear to be full of the Holy Spirit. We have to be prepared to recognise good whereever we see it, to recognise that the Holy Spirit can act in all kinds of different people. But as Christians we are at an advantage because we have the sacraments readily available, whereby the bond of union with Christ is continually strengthened. With this bond of union, we become capable of performing the greatest act of kindness possible, of helping people towards what they need most, that is life in the Holy Trinity.

Robert Verrill OP


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