Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!


Ave Maria!
Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost—14 August AD 2016

“Go and show yourselves to the priests.”

Ordinary of the Mass
English Text
Latin Text

“Arise go thy way; for thy faith hath made thee whole.”[1]

     So what is this thing that we call “Faith”?  In the Collect of today's Mass (the short prayer that is read just before the Epistle), we asked God to give us an increase of Faith, Hope, and Charity.[2]  These three are called the “theological virtues.”  That is to say that they are the virtues that enable us to draw close to God.

    The word “virtue” comes from the Latin word “virtus,” meaning a “strength,” or a “power.”  There are many virtues that are important in the conduct of our lives.  Some of them are natural, while others are supernatural.  Justice, fortitude, temperance, truthfulness, and chastity are examples of the natural virtues.

    Generally speaking, the virtues direct us along the “middle way,” between extremes; between too much and too little; between excess and deficiency.[3]  For example, the virtue of fortitude helps us to persevere in doing what is good, in spite of the obstacles that might get in the way.  It directs us along the “middle way,” so that we don't follow the foolish path of one who has no fear of anything, nor the path of the timid who never act at all.

    It helps to understand the concept of virtue if you think of them as “good habits.”  For, like any habit, the virtues become easier to practice the more often we exercise them.  The more often we are truthful, for example, the easier it becomes for us to be consistently truthful in the future.

    Now, I mentioned that there are supernatural virtues as well as natural ones.  While the natural virtues aid us to live a good life in the world, the supernatural virtues direct us in our life with God—the spiritual life.  The supernatural virtues are given to us as free gifts of God—the theologians speak of them being “infused.”  That is to say that we cannot acquire them on our own, but must seek them from God.

    Let's take Faith, Hope, and Charity as examples.  Having Faith means believing what God has revealed to us on His authority alone.  We can prepare ourselves for Faith by learning what God has revealed—by reading the Bible, or the works of the Fathers of the Church, or listening to sermons, for example—but the supernatural gift of Faith is more than just an intellectual matter.  By the infusion of divine Faith we are transformed; “justified” as the theologians say; made able to receive God's other graces and to earn His rewards for the good we do in this life.

    The theological virtue of Hope transforms us in a related way, taking us from the hopelessness of being trapped by sin, and giving us the absolute confidence that God has redeemed us and will give us every grace necessary to work out our eternal salvation if we but cooperate with Him.

    Charity transforms us as well, giving God to us as the permanent object of our love, in place of the temporary attraction offered by people and things in this world.

    Now, there is an important distinction that we must make.  While God is the only source of these and the other supernatural virtues, and only God can grant an increase in them, it is still up to us to exercise them.  Think of a person who has a talent for music or for playing baseball.  The talent is God-given, and probably cannot be developed very much in those of us who lack it.  But even among the talented, the great musicians and the great baseball players are those who practice.

    The same thing is true for the supernatural virtues.  They are given by God, but it is up to us practice them.  The gift of Faith is wasted on those who never ponder God’s truths.  Likewise the gift of Hope goes undeveloped in those who never consider the realities of Heaven and Hell.  And certainly, there can be no Charity—no love of God—in those who spend no time with their Beloved.

    To make proper use of the supernatural virtues God has given us it is necessary to exercise them.  Many prayer-books print brief acts of faith, and hope, and charity for us to read.  Prayer in general is such an exercise, and certainly the Sacraments and attendance at Holy Mass, or just coming to church to visit our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.  Reading the Scriptures and other spiritual books ought to be mentioned as well.  All of these things help us to exercise the virtues by helping us to know, and to trust, and to love God.

        “Lord, I believe in Thee, but increase my faith;

        “Thou art my only hope, but strengthen my confidence;

        “I love Thee above all things, but increase this love so that I may seek for nothing outside Thy holy will!”

    Ten Lepers were cured—one returned.  Hopefully, more of us will return to God to thank Him and to exercise the virtues He has given us.  Then we too will hear the words “Arise go thy way; for thy faith hath made thee whole.”





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