NECESSITY AND QUALITIES OF FAITH

"Without faith it is impossible to please God" (Heb.11:6).

It is narrated that, in one of Ingersoll's lectures, the noted American infidel orator derided our Faith, calling it a beautiful empty dream. At the close of the lecture, an old Irish washerwoman arose from her place in the audience and spoke to the great orator as follows: "What do you give me in exchange for my faith in the future heaven, a faith which has sustained me, yea, made my rough, hard life these many years in the main a peaceful happy one?" Then, answering her own question, she continued: "You give me only despair; you leave me without hope, with my faith of years shattered, nothing left to live for; or you try to leave me thus--but, sir, even granting, which I do not, that you are right, I still maintain I am happier in my faith and my hope--happier even though it were but a dream."

Yes, "even though it were but a dream!" But, my friends, it is not an empty dream. For, based upon the Bible and tradition,  as we saw in our last discourse, faith is a supernatural virtue whereby, inspired and assisted by the grace of God, we believe that the things which He has revealed are true; not because the intrinsic truth of the things is plainly perceived by the natural light of reason, but because of the authority of God Himself Who have revealed them, and Who can neither be deceived not deceive.

And yet, mindful of the confusion of thought in the minds of untold numbers about us, it is not surprising to hear them exclaim in bewilderment: "Why is it necessary to accept any Creed at all? Will not my hereafter be secure if I live a good honest life according to my own conscience?  What difference does it make what religion a man professes, as long as he lives up to it? Will God ask me hereafter what Creed I professed? Or what faith I followed here on earth?" These questions suggest the subject for today's discourse. That you may know the correct answers to these and other questions about faith, we shall consider today, the necessity and the qualities of faith required of us.

(O Jesus, assist with Thy grace!)

Necessity of Faith.--It is indeed astonishing how many people worry night and day over some business difficulties, or who sacrifice health and comfort in search for money, political preferment, the interests of science and the like, and who, on the other hand, are totally indifferent to their eternal welfare. How, I ask, can any serious minded man neglect to consider the claims of God and his immortal soul when Holy Writ has warned us: "What doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his soul?"

St. Philip Neri, known in his day as the "Apostle of Rome" was a great lover of youth. One day he asked a promising college student this question: "And when your college days are over, what then?"

The student replied, "I hope, sir, to become a lawyer."

"And what then?"

"Then I should like to be a senator and help to make the laws."

"And what then?"

"Then I might be sent as ambassador to represent my country at a foreign court."

"And what then?"

"Then, I fear, I would be an old man, so I would like to live in a villa and enjoy the friends and honors of my successful career."

"And what then?"

Here, the youth was silent. Then he thought of eternity, which measures our success not by the titles and possessions we leave behind us but by the riches of virtue and grace that our faith has aided us to accumulate. It is this thought that gives us the final answer to the question: "And what then?" Then eternity with its eternal reward. This thought changed the student into a pious youth, a great scholar and a great religious.

An assertion that "it does not matter what I believe, or whether I hold any faith at all," is evidently a self-contradiction. It is a first principle of reason that two contradictory statements cannot both be true. If the one is true, the other must be false. Either there are many gods, or there is but one God. Either Jesus Christ is the Son of God, or He is not. Mohammed was either a prophet or an imposter. Divorce is either lawful or it is not. Either Jesus Christ is present in the Blessed Sacrament, or He is not. To declare that Protestantism, Mohammedanism, polytheism and Catholicism are equally true is, therefore, to deny objective truth altogether. On this theory, a man ought to change his religion as he changes his clothes, according to his environment. He ought to be a Catholic in Italy, a Protestant in Sweden, a Mohammedan in Turkey, a Jew in Judea, a Brahmin in India and a Parsee in Persia, and so on.

You readily see, therefore, that they who say that God does not care what we believe, that He is indifferent whether we believe truth or falsehood, consider good evil or evil good, accept His revelation or reject it at will, are guilty of nothing short of blasphemy. Such people usually end by denying God altogether. For he who says "it does not make any difference what a man believes" is tempted to adopt its logical conclusion, and say, "it does not make any difference what a man does." His morality is built on the shifting sands of personal opinion, human respect and nothing more.

No, my friends, God did not leave us to depend upon our own feeble resources of reason, or to be tossed about by every whim of doctrine in working out our eternal salvation.  He gave us a revelation of His divine truths, which He commanded His Apostles and their successors to "go forth and to preach": "Going, teach ye all nations; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you" (Matt. 28:19-20). "There are some" says St. Paul, "that trouble you and would pervert the Gospel of Christ. But though we or an Angel from heaven preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathemas" (Gal.1:8). Still more, in St. Mark (14:6), we read that, after having given the command to the Apostles to go forth and preach, Christ added: "He that believeth not shall be condemned." For, "without faith" says St. Paul (Heb.11:6), "it is impossible to please God." From all this, the necessity of faith becomes clear and convincing.

Qualities of Faith.--Furthermore, in order that our faith be genuine, pleasing to God, and beneficial to ourselves, it must possess certain qualities which we must not overlook.

(1) First, our faith must be universal; that is, we must believe all the truths revealed by God. There can be no exceptions. For Christ said to the Apostles: "Go forth and preach. . . , teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you" (Matt.28:19-20). Most people believe in one God and Man. Others consider the soul to be immortal, but deny that we shall rise again with our bodies. Most people believe that some day we shall be rewarded or punished for our actions in this life, but many cannot, or will not, accept the doctrine of eternal damnation. This is wrong. We must believe all that God has revealed and the Church teaches; that is, our faith must be universal.

(2) Secondly, our faith must be firm. Our faith is firm when we permit no doubt to enter into our minds.  I believe that which I cannot see, or which I cannot fully comprehend and grasp with my mind. But God has revealed it, and that is sufficient for me.  We find many beautiful examples of firm faith in the Scriptures and the lives of the Saints. Noe believed and the flood did not touch the Ark. On the other hand, Moses doubted and was punished. Abraham did not waver in his faith, but was ready to sacrifice his only son. The woman with an issue of blood firmly believed that Jesus could cure her. There was not the slightest doubt in her mind. Therefore, Jesus said to her: "Thy faith hath made thee whole. Go in peace." The centurion of Capharnaum had firm faith and believed that Christ could cure his servant, even without seeing him or laying His hands upon him. Therefore, Jesus said to him: "Verily I have not found so great (firm) faith in Israel."

(3) Thirdly, our faith must be a living faith; that is, we must practise it in our daily lives. Christ Himself tells us: "Not every one that saith, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. But he that doth the will of My Father Who is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven." A living faith is one not only of words, but of deeds as well.  For, "as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead" says St. James. "And if I should have faith, so that I could move mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing" says St. Paul (1Cor.13:2).

(4) Lastly, our faith must be steadfast; that is. once I know what God has revealed, nothing on earth can change me.  Like St. Paul, we should be able to say: "Nothing will ever separate me from the love of God, neither want nor suffering, neither life nor death." The holy martyrs are beautiful examples of a steadfast faith. St. Lawrence was roasted on a gridiron, but he would not apostatize. In the year 1590, 20.000 Christians in Japan, young and old, were crucified or burnt at the stake; but they were all steadfast in faith, encouraging one another to persevere in their faith, valuing it more than life itself.

Conclusion.--Therefore, in conclusion, I once again cry out with St. Paul: "Stand fast in the faith" (I Cor.14:13). And what a consolation it should be for us to know that we are in possession of the true faith!  "There is no more solid wealth, no greater treasure, than Catholic Faith" exclaimed St. Augustine. He who possesses the true faith and practises it, enjoys continual peace of heart and mind, knowing that he is in possession of that "one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, Who is above all, and through all, and in us all" (Eph.4:5-6). Amen.