Saturday, August 30, 2014

Living a Life of Faith

Jesus said: “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith left on the earth?” (Luke 18:8).

The late Father John Hardon, S.J., the Founder and Spiritual Director of The Marian Catechists, sharing some thoughts on the United States, wrote: “We live in the most highly educated nation in world history. But, except for a small remnant, most Americans are abysmally ignorant of God’s laws and His promises . . . Catholicism is in the throes of the worst crisis in its entire history. Unless true and loyal Catholics have the zeal and the spirit of the early Christians, unless they are willing to do what they did and to pay the price that they paid, the days of America are numbered.” Father Hardon also brought to our attention a statement once made by Pope Paul VI: “Satan’s smoke has made its way into the temple of God.” Father Hardon commented on that statement by adding: “It is no longer smoke but a raging fire.”

The cultural influences of this day and age have convinced many that there is no such thing as sin. They theorize that because man is weak in nature, and so drawn to the desires of the flesh, so attuned to fulfilling his own longings, that to deliberately keep these things from him would be inhuman and unfair treatment. And for those of us who try to live according our faith’s teachings, the culture has a few words for us also: they say that teaching human beings to avoid the occasion of such desires cannot come from a loving God.

These types of influences come directly from the flesh which grows older with each passing second until one day it will return to the dust. The soul, however, which is eternal, seems to be forgotten, or ignored, or is not believed to exist at all. There is a spiritual battlefield that we walk on daily, and the culture is encouraging us to surrender to the immoral, because what the heavenly warriors want from us is torturous and too much for a human being to be subjected to.

One of the great writers of the twentieth century was H.L. Mencken. He was a freethinker, though, and would not let moral obligations interfere with his craft. Some examples of his writings go like this: “Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable.” And, “Giving every man a vote has no more made men wise and free than Christianity has made them good.” And finally, “Love is the triumph of imagination over intelligence.” There’s an intelligent cynicism in his writing: Belief in God is illogical, Christianity doesn't make anyone good, and love is not from God but only something the imagination desires to be true.

One of Mencken’s quotes that is most in need of rebuttal is: “The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos.” Jesus said: “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6). Thus He is what is true, what is real. He is the Reality. Mencken’s quote intimates that a belief in God is superstition. What is being fed to us today in our culture is superstition because it promotes a ruling secularism. And faith - well - it may seem illogical to the human intellect but without it, man is left to his own influences, stereotypes, and prejudices. With faith, we can get out of the way of ourselves and let God do His will. Without faith, every decision man makes will in someway reflect his personal desire and not necessarily what is right, fair and just. This is why many Catholics vote for Pro-Choice candidates in elections. They vote for what they personally believe and do not allow faith or the moral order to get in the way. And so, the truth is, the most dangerous man is greatly influenced by the prevailing superstitions and taboos.

Very few of us, however, possess an unshakeable faith. That would be an exalted supernatural gift. But our Lord does not abandon us when we struggle with matters of faith. He gave us this prayer: “I do believe, Lord. Help my unbelief” (Mark 9:23). Possessing the gift of faith brings with it great rewards: “Your faith has made you whole” (Matthew 9:22). “According to your faith, be it done unto you” (Matthew 9:29). “Your faith has made you safe” (Luke 7:50). There is an abundance of other examples in Sacred Scripture about what faith can do for us. It is not taboo or superstition. The fact that anyone has faith, and medical science can’t surgically remove it, suggests that a higher Power placed it there and this Authority works through that gift of faith.

But as Father Hardon would seem to be saying, there is a great responsibility and duty among every Christian who holds dear the gift of faith, who makes Jesus Christ the Center of their lives. Saint James writes: “Be doers of the word, not hearers only (James 1:22). He continues by saying that in being hearers only, we are deceiving ourselves. Our culture is filled with self deception. To call oneself a Catholic and vote against the teachings of the Church can surely be called deceiving oneself.

The Irish statesman Edmund Burke said: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Saint James said: “To Him therefore who knows to do good and does not, to him it is sin” (James 4:17). Doing good translates into many things: Certainly offering care for the poor and other charitable works is at the top of most lists of the devout, but also, our Blessed Mother in her apparitions spoke often of prayer. Turning the prayer intensity level up to “high” is also considered a good work. Doing good works or increasing prayer is sacrificial because it means putting something else aside. And this is how we accept our Lord’s invitation to become co-workers in the work of redemption, saving souls.

Truthfully, man is never left to himself. He will either choose to serve the Lord, or he will not and be left as an easy target for the adversary to use. How else could we possibly be living in what is labeled as “a culture of death”? Certainly these are critical times in which God asks His faithful ones to sacrifice.