The Greek word we Christians use for love among the faithful is “karitas.” From it we derive the English word “charity.” Charity is not just giving to the poor and needy – it is the love of Christ expressed in this world. We are called to have this love – this charity – toward not just those who are suffering while we are well, but toward every other being on earth as created by God.
It’s a huge responsibility.
In the old monasteries, this kind of humility before God’s Creation was expressed in nonjudgment of one’s brothers (or sisters.) While discipline is kept by the abbot or abbess, or the bishop or elder, those who are co-equal under Christ must refrain from criticism and judgment. There was a simple admonition to the critical, derived from the long periods of fasting and abstention:
Keep your eyes on your own plate.
Criticism will lead to hubris – “I am doing so much better than this other one” – and even gluttony and envy – “I could use what you have wasted!”
Walk your own path; work out your own salvation; don’t carry what others have already put down.
There’s another old monastic story. Two monks, sworn to chastity and celibacy, who would not even lift their eyes to look at a woman’s face, are on a long journey from one monastery to another. Winter is close by, they need to hurry. On a deserted path to a village, they find a young woman, her feet too injured by frostbite to support her. One monk, without hesitation, takes the woman in his arms and carries her into the next village, leaving her with the priest for care and medical treatment. The other monk, who has not helped at all in the girl’s rescue, begins to chide his brother for breaking the vows, and not only helping the woman but carrying her in an intimate manner. The monks walk on, the one scolding the other. Finally, after an hour or so of this, the charitable monk says to his partner, “I put that woman down miles ago! Why are you still carrying her?”
Charity is the best part of faith. Be charitable to one another.