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You (still) gotta have Faith, Part III

March 13, 2012

In the beginning we investigate this nagging intuition, this sense of goodness, this openness to truth and beauty to seek out God’s existence (cf. CCC 33).  Then we discover how the Creator, God, reveals himself to us, His creation.  Now we look at man’s ultimate response to God, which is not with disbelief, but rather with Faith.  Remember, the Cradles taught us that Faith ‘is a Divine virtue by which we firmly believe the truths which God has revealed.’  But St Thomas More implores us, “What does it avail to know that there is a God, which you do not only believe by Faith, but also know by reason: what does it avail that you know Him if you think so little of Him?” (from Letter to Margaret)

When God has revealed himself in Truth, because he is Truth itself, it is because he is giving us the invitation to come into his divine company.  Our assent, our submission – freely given, mind you – is our fiat, our resounding, “Yes!”  “By faith man completely submits his intellect and his will to God who reveals” (Dei Verbum 5).  This ‘obedience of faith’ is what St. Paul writes to the Christians in Rome about.  “Through him [Jesus] we have received the grace of apostleship, to bring about the obedience of faith, for the sake of his name, among all the Gentiles, among whom are you also, who are called to belong to Jesus Christ” (Rom 1:5,6).

Our Fiats have lots of precedence: “Abraham is the model of such obedience offered us by Sacred Scripture.  The Virgin Mary is its most perfect embodiment” (CCC 144).  St. Joseph, that most chaste spouse, wordlessly gave his ‘Yes’ by the example of his actions; of doing the right thing.  To have faith is indeed to be human.  “In faith, the human intellect and will cooperate with divine grace (CCC 155), and St Thomas Aquinas adds from his Summa Theologica, “Believing is an act of the intellect assenting to the divine truth by command of the will moved by God through grace.”

So, with faith, we are, and we are cooperating with the divine grace gifted to us by God. And, if we don’t have it (faith), then, it goes to say, then we are not.  But that is the Free Will part.  In order to be human, our response in faith to God must be freely given.  In the Declaration on Religious Liberty, Dignitatis Humanae (The Dignity of the Human Person), the Second Vatican Council, defines this freedom of faith, this freedom of religion, in the light of revelation.  “One of the key truths in catholic teaching, a truth that is contained n the word of God and is constantly preached by the Fathers, is that human beings should respond to the word of God freely, and that therefore nobody is to be forced to embrace the faith against their will.  The act of faith of its very nature is a free act.  The human person, redeemed by Christ the Saviour and called through Jesus Christ to be an adopted child of God (cf. Eph 1:5), can assent to God’s self-revelation only through being drawn by the Father (cf. John 6:44) and through submitting to God with a faith that is reasonable and free.  It is therefore, fully in accordance with the nature of faith that in religious matters every form of human coercion should be excluded.  Consequently, the principle of religious liberty contributes in no small way to the development of a situation in which human beings can without hindrance be invited to the Christian faith, embrace it of their own free will and give it practical expression in every sphere of their lives” (DH 10).

The act of faith of its very nature is a free act.

Remember, this is Vatican II – the very title of which causes some faithful Catholics to spat in disdain.  This is earthshaking in its simplicity!  You won’t have faith in God unless you open yourself up to the divine truth of God.  Of your own free will.  We cannot strong-arm you, even if we wanted to.  So when we are talking to you, Mr. Unbeliever, it is not because we are going to lie to you, or force you to do anything contrary to what you believe.  Ours is the Great Commission, which is our job. “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, … teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt 28:19, 20) and, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel [‘Good News’, people, in case you forgot] to every creature.  Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16: 15, 16).  We are going to do our best to present you divine Truth, not relative truth.  Truth you can sink your teeth into.  We are bringing this good news because of the love we have for our neighbor.  Last time for the Cradles to chime in: “Cradles, who is our neighbor?”  And the Faithful sing out:

Question 473: Every human being capable of salvation of every age, country, race or condition, especially if he needs our help, is our neighbor in the sense of the Catechism.

And we love our neighbor, because he is our brother created to dwell in heaven with us.  In his beautifully written Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict XVI writes, “A new universality  is entering the scene, and it rests on the fact that deep within I am already becoming a brother to all those I meet who are in need of my help. … All this is of concern to us, it calls us to have the eye and the heart of a neighbor, and to have courage to love our neighbor, too.  The risk of goodness is something we must relearn from within, but we can do that only if we ourselves become good from within, if we ourselves are ‘neighbors’ from within” (Jesus of Nazareth, pp 198, 199).

But you have to come to believe on your own. You gotta have Faith.

Peace & Blessings,

Papa

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