Knowing in Part

If I should have prophecy and should know all mysteries, and all knowledge, and if I should have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

1 Corinthians 13:2

Years ago, my littlest daughter approached me with a big question: What is a Protestant?

The question sent me back to my own early childhood, when I had asked my mother a similar question. Remembering her answer, which drew a distinction between the Church founded by Christ and those launched later by others, I attempted to draw a contrast between the the fulness of the truth and partial versions thereof.

Recently my baby girl, who is not such a baby anymore, shared with me the impression my words made on her. Inferring that Protestantism was a bad thing, she drew the logical conclusion that Protestants must be bad people.

Happily, circumstances soon disabused her of this notion. Imagine her surprise when a Baptist girl, whose (soon to be Catholic) family had recently joined our parish, complimented another girl on her pretty dress. No one so friendly could be all bad!

My daughter wasn’t the first to find that her natural desire for truth had outstepped her ability to make requisite distinctions. “When I was a child,” St. Paul attests, “I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child. But, when I became a man, I put away the things of a child.”

So long as we are on earth, the Apostle continues, “we know in part.” Though charity urges us to seek “that which is perfect,” it is childish for us to mistake our present and partial knowledge of perfection for perfection itself.

A mature soul recognizes that even the greatest truths are now glimpsed “though a glass in a dark manner,” and will one day “be done away,” when we know God “face to face.”

Like my daughter, charity seeks to rise above half-truths toward the whole of what Christ has revealed. At the same time, however, charity “is not puffed up” about the spiritual riches entrusted to it.

Charity “rejoices with the truth” wherever truth is to be found, and where truth is lacking, charity “is patient, is kind” in pursuing it. On the way to perfection, charity “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

Charity is not surprised to discover good in others, or bad in oneself. It knows that “none is good but one, that is God” (Mt. 10:18). And it longs to share his goodness with everyone.

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