Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!
Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost—28 September AD 2008
On Faith, Reason, and Morality
“Unless you see signs and wonders you believe not.”

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in Latin and English
Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost - English
Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost - Latin

    In the epistle, Saint Paul advises us to behave circumspectly, “because the days are evil.”[2] And in the Gospel our Lord complains, as He does at other times, about a lack of faith.    The Church selects the Gospel and the Epistle readings because these two concepts are closely related.  There is a correlation between faith and the observance of the moral law.

    Faith, you will remember, is belief in what God has revealed to us, based simply on His authority, for God is the fountain of all Truth.  It is a virtue, given to us by God, that works supernaturally, in much the same way as reason works in the natural order.  You will remember, as well, that the supernatural virtues, even though they are free gifts from God, must be exercised and practiced in order for them to flower in our souls.

    The one who does evil can be said to be one who lacks faith, and perhaps reason as well.  Let's take a look at a few examples.

    The most extreme case is the man who says to himself that he doesn't at all believe in God.  That in itself is evil, for it denies God some of the honor due to Him as creator and conserver.  And, such disbelief may tend toward even greater evil if the disbeliever goes on to ignore the moral law revealed by God.  Of course, for him to be truly and completely evil, the disbeliever would have to give up his reason as well as his faith.  It doesn't take any faith to recognize that, even apart from God, society cannot function if people are cheating, stealing, and killing one another.  But, certainly, disbelief in God will always produce some degree of evil in people and society.

    A less extreme case is the person who recognizes that God exists, but who holds that God's existence is irrelevant to him.  Some of these folks are sophisticated people who view God as a clockmaker who made the world, wound up the spring, and then walked away.  But probably more of them are average people, with a little bit of faith that they have rarely (or never) exercised.  They might be heard to say, “God exists, but if He doesn't bother me, I won't bother him.”

    Often such people are mildly hypocritical, in that they feel free to blame God for the bad things that effect them, but refuse to praise Him for the good.  Like the man in the Gospel, they expect God to work miracles on their behalf    their faith flourishes only as long as God seems to be treating them in the way they want.

    And again they don't expect God to "bother them" will the details of the moral law.  They rationalize that their lying and their stealing and their unchastity is somehow “within tolerance,” and that God shouldn't “bother them” with impossible ideals like perfection.  “If God wanted us to be perfect, He would have made us that way.” (!)

    There is a third case.  That is the person who has faith, and perhaps even practices his religion in an active way    but who somehow thinks that he is special, and that the moral law doesn't apply to him as it does to others.  He feels that he is doing fine if he keeps seven or eight of the ten Commandments; particularly if nobody knows about (or is scandalized by) two or three that he breaks routinely.  His sin is usually more one of pride than of hypocrisy—often such people really believe that they are too important to be limited to just one wife; too exceptional to be required to be honest in their dealings; too enterprising to be limited to telling the truth.  They are certainly too important to “be subject to” anyone “in the fear of Christ.”

    All of these cases are examples of the necessity of faith if we are to live a moral life.  The person of true faith, who exercises that faith, knows that God's moral law is eminently reasonable, and that it applies to him as well as to any other.  He knows that God orders all things—good or bad—according to an eternal plan; so his faith is as strong in adversity as it is in triumph.  The truly faithful find joy in doing what is good; they are exalted precisely by humbling themselves before the will of God.

    That's what God is asking of each of us.  He speaks today through Saint Paul in his letter to the Ephesians: “Walk circumspectly, be wise, understanding the will of God ... be filled with the Holy Ghost instead of with the wine of worldly luxury.... make melody in your hearts to the Lord, giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

    We live in an age largely without faith; and, not surprisingly, an age without morals.  This is true in civil affairs and even in the Church.  But God asks us to be something different.  He asks us to be men and women of true faith; those who believe and who act as though they believe; those who don't require “signs and wonders” to persevere through difficult times.

    He asks us to humble ourselves;  to do good;  to keep the faith!



[1]   Gospel: John v: 46-53.

[2]   Epistle: Ephesians v: 15-21.


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