July 5, 2020
To be holy, we practice the supernatural virtues of faith, hope, and charity that God bestows upon the soul at Baptism, yet require us to cooperate by exercising them, making acts of faith, hope, charity. We make an act of faith when we consciously affirm the truths of our faith, such as in the Apostles’ or Nicene Creed, assenting to the truth not because we arrived to the truth intellectually but because we trust God, as our all-wise, all-powerful, all-loving Father, who has revealed it to us. A lived faith means trusting God’s paternal providence. We make an act of hope by seeking God as our end and source of our true happiness, even when must endure hardships before enjoying eternal life. We make an act of charity every time we love and please God above everything and love everybody out of love for him.
Faith means trusting in God’s providence, his loving plan for our lives, without trying to control everything. We don’t always understand God’s plan, or what he has revealed to us through the Church, which only be a sin if we freely choose to doubt, question, or challenge his Word (cf. CCC 2088). This can lead to disbelief, heresy (denial of some truth of the Catholic faith), apostasy (total repudiation of the Christian faith) or schism (refusal to submit to the authority of the Pope) (cf. CCC 2089). Exposing oneself or one’s children to anti-Christian education, books, magazines, web sites, movies, etc., can endanger the faith and so offend God.
Despair—considering salvation impossible, that our sin is greater than God’s mercy (cf. CCC 2091)—is a sin against hope; so is presumption: that God will save us no matter what, without any repentance or conversion, relying on ourselves for our salvation (cf. CCC 2092).
Sins against charity include indifference, thinking one religion is as good as another; ingratitude, not acknowledging God’s mercy is a free gift to us; lukewarmness and acedia, a spiritual neglect, sloth, or laziness for the things of God; hatred of God, rejecting God and his goodness or even cursing God (cf. CCC 2094)
Religion is the virtue by which we must show God the respect, honor, and piety due to him as creator and ruler of the universe. Religion pertains to justice where we recognize God who gives creatures their being, provides for their needs, and directs them to their true end.
The virtue of religion entails adoring God for his supremacy over us (cf. CCC 2096-7): we are his creatures and he has created all that we are and have. God wants and deserves our whole heart and being, to love him and to put our heart into adoring him, especially at Mass, not just showing up to Mass on Sundays, although that is important.
Just as a parent seeks a child’s loving conversation, we should spend time with God in prayer (see CCC 2098), in a loving conversation with God in praise, thanksgiving, reparation, and petition. God also loves to see us make sacrifices (see CCC 2099-2100), surrendering something precious to us—our comfort, pleasure, material possession, even our lives—for the love of him. This can include everyday crosses, fasting, etc.
Scripture shows us the difference between the sacrifice of Abel—sacrificing the first and best fruit of his labor—and the reluctant sacrifice of Cain (see Genesis 4:1-7). In the Sermon of the Mount, our Lord warns us: “For I tell you, unless our righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20). We must give God our whole heart, mind, strength, and soul, not just fulfill the letter of the law. Jesus goes on to say: “Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 6:1). So when we give donations, pray, fast, or make sacrifices… we should hunger and thirst for righteousness and not feel sorry for ourselves or seek pity from others: we do it to please God alone, so only he needs to know about it (see Matthew 6:2-18).
-Fr. John R. Waiss