Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Faith and Charity

1. Faith is a gift from God. (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa II-II, q. 45) We should, therefore, ask for it in our prayers. Faith cannot enter into a proud soul because God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble . (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5) If a man does not pray, his faith grows weaker and he may lose it altogether. Faith must be nourished continually by grace which is obtained through prayer. A man who is in a state of mortal sin loses his faith, especially if he is a slave to impurity, because only the clean of heart can see God. (Cf. Mt. 5:8) St. Thomas knew what he was talking about when he said that "faith is the foundation of the entire spiritual edifice of the Christian life." (Summa, III, q. 73, a. 3) It is faith nourished by grace which raises us to the supernatural level, where everything which we do, say or think becomes meritorious in the sight of God. My just one lives by faith. (Heb. 10:38) The keener and stronger our faith is, the firmer is the foundation of our spiritual life and the more numerous are our good works. This is not to say that faith excludes all study and investigation. In fact, the more lively is our faith, the more earnest will be our desire to understand better the terms, in which our faith is expressed and to explore the intimate connection between divine revelation and human knowledge. Study of this kind will prove a refreshing experience because it will bring us to the threshold of the contemplation of eternal truth. Reason is not humiliated but ennobled by the light of revelation, which raises it to a higher plane.

2. Faith is a wonderful thing. As has been said, it is a supernatural gift from God which we should keep alive by prayer. Faith alone is not enough, however. It is the foundation on which we must build the structure of our Christian life. It is especially necessary for it to be united to the flame of charity. "Without love," says St. Augustine, "there is only the faith which the devil has," (De Caritate, 10) because, as St. James explains, the devils also believe and tremble. (James 2: 19) We, however, should believe and love. We must combine faith with charity towards God and towards our neighbour. Our faith should be active. As St. Paul says, it should work under the influence of charity. (Gal. 5:6) Without charity and good works, faith is a lifeless thing. If we really believe, we should love God above all things, even more than we love ourselves; and we should be ready to make any sacrifice for Him, even the sacrifice of our lives. Faith should induce us to think constantly of God and charity should urge us to do everything for His sake rather than for any lesser purpose. If we lack this kind of charity, we cannot claim to be sincere Christians.

3. Our faith should be suffused by love of our neighbour as well as by the love of God. We should love our neighbour as ourselves. Does anybody really practise this fundamental Christian precept? Once again, let us contrast the magnificent mansions and places of entertainment of the rich with the slums and hovels where thousands are living in conditions which are not fit for rational human beings. Is this Christianity? Is this the teaching of the Gospel? What would Jesus say about such aspects of modern life ~ It would seem that the Gospel is still a closed book for many Christians. Let us examine ourselves on this commandment, which is so generally ignored that the consequences are likely to be disastrous for everybody. Let us investigate how much responsibility we bear for this sad and dangerous state of affairs. Let us make appropriate resolutions which will save us from the peril of God's final and fearful condemnation: Depart from me, accursed ones, into the everlasting fire . . . As long as you did not do it for one of these least ones, you did not do it for me. (Cf. Mt. 25: 41-46)