2/120: Charity widens the heart

An excerpt from St Anthony’s homilies


Homily theme:
A tile represents the heart of a sinner because of four characteristics which it has:
1. It is moulded between two boards
2. It is flattened out
3. It is hardened by fire
4. And it is made red

“Again, the heart is in a certain sense flattened out.

The breadth of charity widens the narrow heart of the sinner.

We may recall the words: “They commandment is exceedingly broad” [Ps 119:96] and “Charity is wider than the ocean”.

Text from the Franciscan Archive, homilies translated into English by Paul Spilsbury



I thought about Zacchaeus in Luke 19. His first act of repentance was to give half his possessions to the poor and repay four times as much to anyone he has defrauded. Look how his heart grew in kindness and righteousness once he repented.

What is charity?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church [1822-1829] explains the meaning of charity:

“Charity is the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God.” [1822]

So charity calls us to:

1. Love God above all 
– through obeying the commandments
– “Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.” [John 15:9-10]

2. Love neighbour before self, in reflection of love received from God

No wonder St. Anthony said that charity will widen the sinner’s heart! We are called to action, sharing God’s love that we have received.

Is charity synonymous with love then?

CCC 1827 says that “charity upholds and purifies our human ability to love, and raises it to the supernatural perfection of divine love.”

So charity grows the heart as the sinner pursues good and chooses it in concrete actions. Because in doing good, we are choosing to love neighbour over self, and to share the goodness of God’s love that we’ve experienced through repentance.

How can we be more charitable? 

  • WWJD – When in doubt, ask yourself “What would Jesus do in this situation?” It will be clear – Jesus would help the old lady cross the road; Jesus would give whatever he had to the poor; Jesus would speak kindly; Jesus would reach out and help the needy.
  • Study the Gospels – Read what Jesus did in such situations.
  • Pray for God to fill your heart with charity – God will give you opportunities to be charitable. Choose charity over uncharitable thoughts / actions.
  • Avoid thinking we are better than others – Let your first response be of love, that is patient and kind. [1 Cor 13: 4-7]


Let’s pray:

Keep me, O God, from pettiness; let all my thoughts, words and deeds root from your love. Widen my narrow fault-finding, self-seeking and sinful heart. With your grace, Lord, help me to put aside hasty judgments, complaints, pretense and prejudice. Make me grow in love for you, and teach me to be generous with others  as you have been so generous with me. And, Lord, let me not forget to be kind! Holy Spirit, gentle and true, increase in me an awareness to place God first, and others before self. Help me to recognise the face of Jesus in the people I meet. Amen. 




Author: Valerie

Live. Laugh. Love.

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