Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!


Ave Maria!
Quinquagesima Sunday—26 February A.D. 2017


Theos agapēn estin
God is love [*]

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

On the Theological Virtues

    It is easy to understand the man portrayed in today's Gospel.  Everyone has experienced physical afflictions of one sort or another.  And even if we have never had any trouble with our eyes, it is easy to understand the anxiety of a blind person.  All we have to do is close our eyes for a few moments and just think about the possibility of never being able to open them again—just the idea produces anxiety.

    And this particular blind man had obviously heard about the cures and miracles that Jesus had been working in the area where he lived.  We might say that he possessed a sort of “natural” faith;  that because he had heard testimony given by people whom he knew and trusted, he was moved to believe that Jesus had the power to cure his blindness.  So he was quite insistent in asking for this favor—he had nothing to lose, and everything to gain.  And our Lord referred to this very faith, when He told the blind man, “Thy faith has saved thee”;  or perhaps better translated, “Thy faith has made thee whole.”[1]

    But, normally, when we speak of “faith,” we are referring not to a natural virtue, but to a supernatural virtue.  We say we have faith, not so much because we have studied and researched and investigated—but, rather, because God in His generosity has given us the gift of faith.  We may strengthen our faith—partly by our own efforts, and partly through the additional graces received in prayer and the sacraments—but our initial faith must come from God.  It is literally the grace to believe the things that God has revealed to us on His own authority—knowing that He is always truthful; that He can never deceive nor be deceived.  No human effort, and no human emotionalism can substitute for God's free gift of faith.

    Faith is the first of the “theological” virtues—those virtues that lead us closer and closer to God.  I say it is the first, for it is normally followed by another virtue;  that of hope.  For once we believe what God has revealed, it becomes reasonable for us to have hope;  for hope is essentially trust in God;  that God will provide us with the graces necessary to work out our salvation;  that if we cooperate with God, we can achieve happiness with Him in heaven.

    Together faith and hope lead us to the third theological virtue, which is charity.  And the word “charity” here means “the love of God.”  Only secondarily it might mean caring for the poor—but even then it is the love of fellow man;  and hopefully the love of fellow man because we love God.

    In a very real sense, we can think of charity as a foretaste of heaven right here on earth.  Or, we might say that it is the preparation we make in order to be able to enter heaven and gather its rewards.  In comparison with charity;  in comparison with loving God, everything else—even the others virtues—everything loses its importance.  Look what Saint Paul tells us, “If I give everything to the poor, if I burn my body in penance, even if I can move mountains with my great faith, none of this is of any use if I don't love God.”[2]

    To be sure, Saint Paul is not belittling the other virtues.  But what he is saying is that they are all encompassed in the love of God.  “Charity believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”  Paul is telling us that hope, and faith, and in this case, fortitude, are all contained in the virtue of Charity—that if we have the love of God in us, all of these other necessary things become second nature to us.  “Faith and hope will pass away,” becoming unnecessary when we see God face to face, "”but charity will never pass away.”

    Saint Augustine is reputed to have said “Love God and then do as you please.”  At first that sounds a little bit licentious, like the exaggeration of “l‑u‑v” that we kept hearing about during the 1960s.  But that is a mistake.  Neither St. Augustine, nor Saint Paul before him, meant any such thing.  We might understand it better if we rephrased that statement to read, “Love God and do as you will then please.”  In other words, if you truly love God, you will not wish to do anything that will displease Him—indeed you will seek out things that are positively good and pleasing to Him.

    Today is Quinquagesima Sunday—we are only a few days away from Lent.  Figuratively we are, as our Lord says, “about to go up to Jerusalem.”  For in the holy season of Lent we will see the events of our salvation played out in the scripture readings and liturgy of the Church.  We will share a little of our Lord's sufferings with our fasting and abstinence and good works.  We will come to know more about Him through our reading and meditation, and just simply by listening to what we hear at Mass.  But please bear in mind that the ultimate purpose for Lent goes beyond fasting and abstinence and all the other things we associate with Lent—indeed, we might say that the ultimate reason for being a Catholic goes beyond all of these things—that our ultimate goal is to find ourselves in love with God.

    Heaven and earth will pass away, knowledge will be destroyed, prophesies will be made void, faith and hope will be fulfilled and be no more, but Charity alone will remain;  and we will remain in so far as we have Charity;  we will remain in so far as we love God.


Dei via est íntegra
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