Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!


Ave Maria!
Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost—13 September AD 2015

Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English

Intellect & Will

    There is an interesting discussion that seems to go on in just about every age; and it is hinted at in today's Epistle;  and the question that it raises is whether it is more important to know God or to love God.  To me it has always seemed that the two are inseparable.  Knowledge and love—intellect and will, to use the technical term—are two powers of the same human mind.  They are not separable in any real person;  we can speak about them separately only in the abstract or theoretical sense.

    Likewise the virtues of faith and charity.  In theory we can speak about faith as a virtue of the intellect;  we can say that it is the virtue by which we believe (with our intellect) the things that are necessary for salvation.  And, again, in theory, we can speak about charity as the virtue of the will;  we can say that it is the virtue by which we love God and our neighbor, which is also necessary for salvation.  But, in real life the two are not so easily separable—they always seem to be more or less proportional.  People with a strong love of God seem to be strong in their belief in Him as well;  people weak in their faith rarely have any great love of God.  It is hard to imagine how it could be otherwise.

    Some of the theoretical confusion stems from a misunderstanding of what these things are; faith and charity.  One school of thought speaks of "faith alone" as being sufficient to salvation—but then it goes on to speak of faith, not so much as a belief in God, but rather as a great emotional effort to call down God's grace to hide our sins.  Actually, that's really more like hope than faith or charity, but seems to be less of a God given virtue than a great personal effort.

    Another school of thought seems to think of faith as a substitute for learning about God, as though we walk around with God whispering in our ear to tell us everything we must say or do.  This is becoming more and more a problem in the modern Church as people—even many priests and bishops—put less and less faith in the Church as teacher of Scripture and Tradition, and begin to seek the knowledge of God in various forms of direct private revelation.  They expect the Holy Ghost to directly guide them, or, perhaps, the Blessed Mother to speak to them from a nearby hill top, or, perhaps, to be directed by an angel.

    This idea is wrong on two counts:  First of all, faith only opens us to believe what God has revealed in Scripture and Tradition—we still have to rely on the Catholic Church (which Christ instituted for this purpose), to teach us those revealed truths—and we have to make an effort to learn them.  It is not like driving your car in and getting it filled up with so many gallons of faith!

    And, secondly, those that leave themselves “open to the spirit,” as they say, leave themselves open to that other spirit, at least as much as to the Holy Spirit.  The devil is very pleased to dress himself up like an “angel of light”;  very pleased to have us do dozens of good things if that will get us to do one bad thing.  Over the centuries, the Church (and good common sense) has commanded us to generally ignore every sort of private “revelation” that we think we are getting from a holy source, lest we be misled.  It was forbidden to publicize such things until they were brought before the bishop for his determination—and rarely did he grant his approval.  The Bishop of Fatima, for example, spent 12 years studying the testimony taken there in 1917, in spite of the fact that thousands of people reported witnessing a great miracle of the Sun spinning, and descending closer to earth, and drying their rain soaked clothes.  Only in 1929 did he declare the testimony of 1917 to be “worthy of belief.”

    Altogether too many modern Catholics think they are supposed to act on every feeling they get while their hands are raised or to every voice that whispers in their ear, or that they have been released from the obligation to learn and to know and to act upon the truths given us through the Church in Scripture and Tradition.

    Don't misunderstand:  We are “strengthened with power through His Spirit unto the progress of the inner man.”  Faith is essential if we are to believe the divine realities—but we still must make the effort to learn those realities from authoritative sources.  And “having Christ dwelling through faith"” we are “rooted and grounded in love” and the “love of Christ” does “surpass all knowledge.”  But the love of Christ grows only as we come to know Him, for you cannot love something that you do not know.  God gives His graces freely, but yet we must cooperate with them if they are to have an effect.

    Let me close by suggesting that the words of our Lord in the Gospel have a bearing on all of this.  Some folks say that it is pride that drives the intellectual—that people learn about God only to show off their ability to learn.  In some cases they are correct.  And in some cases there are people who claim to be driven by love, with no basis in knowledge at all, who are equally proud of their ignorance.  The reality is that both are wrong.  We must both know God and love God—and we ought never do either one to exalt ourselves:

    “For he who exalts himself shall be humbled,”—whether he exalts himself in ignorance or in intellect— “and he who humbles himself shall be exalted.”


Dei via est íntegra
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