True Faith

Father Roberto Cano, FSSP

 

Arise be enlightened, O Jerusalem, for thy light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon thee.  Isa. LX, 1

In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost Amen.

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This solemn feast of the Epiphany is the continuation of the mystery of Christmas, of that mystery of God becoming man.  As the meaning of the word Epiphany suggests, the Church commemorates on this day God’s manifestation to the Gentiles.  Unlike the Old Covenant, where God would make Himself manifest through a burning bush or a pillar of cloud, in the New and Eternal Covenant God manifests Himself as True God and True Man, in the Person of Jesus Christ.   It was decreed in the divine plan to impart first the fruits of the redemption to the nation of the Jews as is clear by Our Lord’s birth in the land of Israel and by the announcement of the angels to the shepherds on the night of Christmas.  However, on the Epiphany, God is also manifested to the Gentiles as is understood by the coming of the Magi from the East.  In the Magnificat antiphon of today’s feast we pray, “We celebrate a holy day adorned by three miracles: this day a star led the Magi to the manger; this day water was changed into wine at the marriage-feast; this day Christ chose to be baptized in the Jordan for our salvation, alleluia.”  Indeed, the Church recalls these three miracles on this particular day as they are all clear manifestations or epiphanies of the divinity and dignity of Christ, the Redeemer and Savior of the world.  What is it then, that the Church wishes us to contemplate?  It would seem that the Church through these miracles is evoking our faith in the divinity of the helpless Babe of Bethlehem.  It is only fitting then to speak about the virtue of faith and its great importance in our lives as Catholics.

            Faith-what is it?  It is a supernatural habit by which we firmly believe those things to be true which God has revealed.  Or to put it in the words of St. Paul in his Epistle to the Hebrews, “faith is the substance of things to be hoped for, the evidence of things that appear not” (Heb. XI, 1).  Faith, as you all know, is a theological virtue meaning that its end or object is Almighty God.  By the virtue of faith man seeks to know the truth about God and the created world in its relation to God from the point of view of the First Truth, that is, God Himself.  Which means that faith first and foremost is a gift bestowed on man by God since it is only through this gift that man can view God and the created world from His point of view as He created and intended them.  Faith is not something man can obtain by his own volition.  It essentially orders the intellect towards God and gives it the ability to determine if a certain proposition is true depending on whether or not it is in accord with divine Revelation.  The virtue requires, however, a further act which we call the act of faith or believing.  Mainly, it is the assent of the intellect under the motion of the will to a truth proposed for belief which is based upon sufficient authority.  The sufficient authority is Almighty God and since He is the authority the believer has the absolute certainty that what He believes is true.  To put it simply, in order to believe we need both our intellects and wills, our intellects to tell us what to believe and our wills to assent to it.  But in order for our wills to grant assent there must be a further habit which perfects the will and that further habit is charity.  Thus, faith which is accompanied by charity is called formed faith and faith without charity is called unformed faith.  The man who is in mortal sin and therefore without supernatural charity has unformed faith which renders the virtue powerless, sterile.  Although, he might have the same knowledge as any believing soul in the state of sanctifying grace e.g. belief in the Blessed Trinity, nevertheless, the divine truths have not affect upon him and he lives his life as if God did not exist.  This point is crucial when we examine our present day situation in the Church where so many baptized Catholics have fallen away from the practice of the faith.  In part, the problem can be attributed to the lack of proper catechesis, after all a man cannot love that which he does not know.  But it can also be attributed to the abundance of grave sins on individual souls that render these persons all together indifferent to the practice of the faith.   A point to keep in mind especially with our relatives and friends who have fallen away.  Often what is most needed is not a convincing argument or a tongue lashing, but rather a thorough and sincere confession to restore that soul once again in the life of grace. 

            In the ancient rite of Baptism, the godparents of the child to be baptized are asked by the priest the following question: What do you ask of the Church of God?  And they respond, Faith.  Upon which a second question is asked:  What does faith grant to you?  And they respond, eternal life.  And here, dear brethren, we have the answer to why faith is so important in our lives.  Because without faith we cannot have eternal life!  No faith, no salvation!  However, it should be clear that the priority of faith is only in the order of understanding as a traveler must first know where he is going before he can arrive to his destination.  Faith tells us what to believe to get to Heaven, but in and of itself is insufficient to get us there.  The greatest virtue in this life is charity for it will be as St. John of the Cross has said, “At the evening of this life we will be judged by our love.”  The Epistle of St. James is clear in this matter that faith without works is dead.  Faith is not simply a matter of confidence or trust in God, but rather it is operative meaning that the man of faith will cooperate with God’s grace to accomplish good works so that he can grow in charity. 

            And yet, there is another point to be gleaned from the ancient rite of Baptism, namely, that the gift of faith which God bestows comes to man through the Church.  Which necessarily implicates that the faith which grants eternal life can only come from the one Church that is its Guardian.  Since there is only One Lord there can only be one faith and one baptism, otherwise, there would be a multiplicity of faiths and baptisms which would lead to the Lord, but that is impossible!  For we either believe that Christ is the Son of God and all that He has revealed is true or we believe that He is not the Son of God and that what He said was false and nothing more than an opinion.  This is based on that undeniable metaphysical principle of non-contradiction, which states that a proposition cannot be true and true in the same respect and at the same time.  We know by faith that Christ founded His Church on earth as commissioned to St. Peter and that it is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church from which we receive the gift of faith and salvation.  It was 80 years ago to the day, that Pius XI, of blessed memory, wrote a monumental encyclical on fostering true religious unity or as more commonly called today ecumenism.  In that encyclical Mortalium Animos he states:

Christ Our Lord instituted His Church as a perfect society, external of its nature and perceptible to the senses, which should carry on in the future the work of the salvation of the human race, under the leadership of one head, with an authority teaching by word of mouth, and by the ministry of sacraments, the founts of heavenly grace…This Church, after being so wonderfully instituted, could not, on the removal by death of its Founder and of the Apostles who were the pioneers in propagating it, be entirely extinguished and cease to be, for to it was given the commandment to lead all men, without distinction of time or place, to eternal salvation: “Going therefore, teach ye all nations…” It follows then that the Church of Christ not only exists today and always, but is also exactly the same as it was in the time of the Apostles, unless we were to say, which God forbid, either that Christ Our Lord could not effect His purpose, or that He erred when He asserted that the gates of Hell should never prevail against it.  (MA, 6)

All too often in our day, there are certain members of the clergy and the faithful who wish to create false impressions of unity with the different Protestant sects and false religions of the world, but the reality is that unity, as the catechism teaches us, is based on faith, government and the sacraments.  Therefore, unity cannot be had with any group which does not share in the same divinely revealed faith or is subject to the same government, namely the Pope and the bishops in communion with him or possesses the 7 sacraments.  This is why later in the encyclical Pope Pius XI would say, “Venerable Brethren, it is clear why this Apostolic See has never allowed its subjects to take part in the assemblies of non-Catholics: for the union of Christians can only be promoted by promoting the return to the one true Church of Christ of those who are separated from it, for in the past they have unhappily left it.  To the one true Church of Christ, we say, which is visible to all, and which is to remain, according to the will of its Author, exactly the same as He instituted it.”

All that has been said makes us return again to the Magi of today.  For these 3 Kings of Persia received the gift of faith and with haste they came to adore the King of Kings.  They saw His star in the sky and they followed even when the star was no longer visible.  And finally, when they beheld the Child with His Mother they fell on their knees and adored.  Thus, they fulfilled the prophecy of the Psalmist, “And he shall rule from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth.  Before him the Ethiopians shall fall down, and his enemies shall lick the ground.  The Kings of Tharsis and the islands shall offer presents: the kings of the Arabians and of Saba shall bring gifts: and all kings of the earth shall adore him: all nations shall serve him” (Ps. LXXI, 8-11).  The 3 Kings are in a certain sense our forefathers in the Faith as they were the first of the Gentiles to recognize Christ as the Messiah.  A reminder to us that the salvation of Christ is for everyone, however, we must be willing to accept it.  As we said earlier, faith is a gift and a supernatural one and if we fail to guard it and protect it we may risk to lose it forever.  Sin and especially mortal sin is our greatest enemy for it can eventually rob us of our faith.  The gift of faith is like that pearl of great price spoken about in the Gospel, who when the merchant found it, went his way and sold all that he had and bought it cf. Mt. XIII, 45- 46.  Let us never fail to forget, dear friends, that to be Roman Catholic is not for the faint of heart, but rather it is as Christ said, “the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent bear it away” (Mt. XI, 12).  Why then, do we hesitate in our faith? 

In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost  Amen. 

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