During the Year of Faith, the Community and Old St. Mary’s will hold evenings of Adoration with the Parish, which includes a sermon on one of the articles of the Apostles Creed. The First of these evenings occurred last week. This is the sermon that Fr. Jon-Paul delivered for the first of 12 installments…
What exactly is Faith? We hear a lot of about this word faith – The Profession of Faith, the Year of Faith, the Virtue of Faith. Everyday we have faith that we will wake up. Everyday we have faith that the sun will rise. And in many ways, we just take things for granted as facts. But what is this Faith that we have been called to as Catholics? Well, faith has many different dimensions.
In the first place, faith is a gift. It is a gift to us from the living God. A gift given to us through the Sacrament of Baptism, that enables us to know, love, and serve Him, so that we may be with Him in the next. Faith is essential to who we are, because it is the “sense” that enables us to know that which our other five senses cannot grasp. A sense that enables us to see beyond this material world. And so God gives us this great gift so that we may know Him. A gift that we can’t waste. And a gift that we must cultivate. It is a fact that we can know God through our reason. We can know Him through our created world. There are signs and proofs for Him all around us. First and foremost in our own wondering where all of this came from.
But reason can’t tell us everything. We can’t rationalize the Incarnation. We can’t reason to the Blessed Virgin. For those things, and many others, we need this gift of faith. And so we try to grow in our faith, just as the Lord told the parable of the good servant who invested the talents in order to earn interest for his master. Not wasting a single thing given to us. But this is only one way in which we can understand what faith is.
Faith is also the content of what we believe. The Faith is explained in things like the Apostles Creed. Which this series is based around. The Faith contains doctrines like the true divinity and true humanity of Christ. All of those articles that we believe. And these articles demand our response, because it is God Himself who reveals them to us. The God can neither deceive nor be deceived. The Faith is the content of what we believe in Sacred Scripture and in Sacred Tradition. Those two means in which God has chosen to reveal Himself to us. In these two senses, we are shown that Faith is something that is given. And this brings us to our third understanding of the word faith.
Faith is also our response to God. It is something we receive and then give our submission to. It is something we say yes to. As the Creeds begin, ‘I believe…’ I believe in the articles of faith that we are called to believe in. Our belief in a God who reveals Himself to us and gives Himself to us. In saying ‘I believe,’ we allow the Divine Light, that overcomes all darkness, to shine within us. It is a rejection of fear, of pride, of sin. And an acceptance of freedom, humility, and love. Faith is a demand on us to shine before men, so that they too may come to the love and acceptance of God. So that they too can say, ‘I believe.’ Because by its nature, Faith makes a demand on us to share it with others. To allow the faith to embody everything that we are, and who we are. Because if we believe everything that we will be addressing in these sermons over the next several month, how can they not have a deep and profound effect on us? God created us. How does that not get at the heart of who we are? God became man and died for us. How does this not demand a response on our part? These aspects of the Faith that should bring us great joy. How can this joy not overflow into our daily activities and into our own evangelization of our culture? If we were but more faithful and joy filled Catholics, it would be impossible to resist the Social Reign of Jesus Christ, our King.
And as people of faith, we must never fall into any sort of self pity for ourselves. Our faithfulness is tested when our faith is tested. Just as the faith of Abraham was tested when God asked him to do the unthinkable of sacrificing his son Isaac. Noah was ridiculed for building the ark. Mary, even to the point of putting her life at risk, said yes to God even if it might appear to have been adultery. God does not ask us to always understand everything, but he does ask faithfulness from us. So even in these days, when Faith is often ridiculed or looked upon as superstition, let us look to those who have gone before and provide models of faith for us.
But where does this Faith come from? If a man stands behind a curtain, those who pass by his house have no idea he is there. But if he reveals himself, those who pass by are able to see him. Our relationship with God is very similar. Before God revealed Himself, the ancient world had many different gods. Every force of nature, every human trait, nearly everything had its own God. Athena, the goddess of wisdom. Aries, the god of war. Zeus, the head god. And while we look back and think how foolish of them. This tells us something about the human psyche. Deep within us has been built a deep desire for God. For we have come from God, and ultimately will return to Him. All men, whether they acknowledge him or not, have a desire for God. The ancient philosophers, without knowing anything of the Christian God, came to an understanding of a higher being just based on their own yearning in their beings. But they never came to know the Christian God.
And so, we come to the meet of what we are here to talk about. We will study and pray about the content of our Faith, so that we all may be urged into deeper Faith of God. So that this may fill our entire being and affect who and what we are as persons. If we all draw closer to God, if we, as a Church, draw closer to God, we can’t help but to have an effect on the universe. Regardless of how you may feel of the election this week. One thing is certain for our Society. It needs God more than ever. If we, as people of Faith, can’t draw closer to Him, then how can Society. We are society. And until we allow God to embody us, we can’t expect Him to embody anyone else. And so who is God?
I could give you a technical explanation of God. That he is eternal, all present, all powerful, all knowing. Etc etc… But I don’t think that is necessary. God is the central mystery of the Christian Faith. And it is with God that the Apostles Creed begins. What is it that I believe in? I believe in God. Not in some idol. Not in some material thing. Not in some merely created thing. But the statement is, I believe in God. And we have this information about God from God Himself. God has loved His people so much that he desired not only to create us. But he desired to share His life with us. We will never understand God completely. Our finite minds will never grasp the immense infinite mystery of God. But what we can come to know through faith is the revelation that God has made of Himself.
This revelation began first of all in creation itself. Moving into the Covenants he made with His people Israel. And throughout all of Salvation History, God reveals Himself to us. And why? So that we may share in his Divine Life. As the Baltimore Catechism teaches us. So that we may know, love, and serve God, so that we may be with Him in the next. God’s purpose for creating us, and our end in life are one in the same.
Men have unfortunately forgotten this link we have with God. We have failed to live up to our call as human beings because we have taken our eyes off of God. But even then, there still exists underneath all of that, a deep desire for something beyond this life. No one can truthfully go through this life and honestly believe that this is it. There is always hope for humanity. The key is, getting them back to the statement ‘I believe in God.’ Not in money, or technology, or people. The false gods of our own society. But in the one God who revealed himself to us. God freely gives the gift of faith, it is us who has to turn to Him alone s our origin and goal. Preferring nothing. And substituting nothing for God.
This is why we can’t mope. This is why we can’t be sad. We must always be filed with hope, because we have been given the gift of Faith. And this faith urges us to proclaim belief in the One God. Our love for God demands that we proclaim in all of our actions and deeds the God who loves the world beyond our understanding.
And how has God chosen to reveal Himself. Over time he went from being this mysterious being. Of whom we could never even utter His name. To revealing Himself as a Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Throughout all of History, God was waiting to reveal Himself, not only as One God, but as three persons in one God. A God who isn’t some abstract idea, but is a concrete reality that plays a real and major part in our world. And without venturing too far into the topic for next time. God has sent us Jesus Christ, who has become one of us. The one who has forever united the Divine to the Human. Wedding heaven and earth. How can we not be excited and be grateful for what God has done for us. He has given us our first right, the right to exist. Of which no one can take away because it comes to us from God. And then even more, he has shared his own existence with us. Who did nothing to deserve it.
To Israel, they were ecstatic to simply learn the name of God. And then wouldn’t utter it out of respect. For us, we know that God not only told us His name, but became one of us. How has this changed our lives?
The idea of fatherhood is going to be a difficult idea for Americans to grasp very soon. There is a crisis in the family, and it starts with fathers. So to speak of God as a loving Father will be both difficult, but at the same time provide the way in which we can hopefully move forward. But that is exactly what God is, a loving Father. Who created us, and loved us into being. God’s goodness is so great, and his love so unlimited. The image that the philosophers give is that His goodness and love overflowed and thus we are. There is the universe. The earth and the sea. The sky and the sun. The birds, the animals. And the jewel of his creation, mankind. Creation is far to perfect for us not to have a loving God who made it all. To begin to draw to a close, I want to read about creation…
The earth is 24,899 miles in circumference; the sun is far larger, for its diameter is one hundred times greater than that of the earth. Some of the heavenly bodies are far greater; some of them if they occupied the place of the sun and were to begin to rise at 6 A.M., would not have completely risen above the horizon by 6 P.M. Our earth is over ninety-one million miles distant from the sun. A body travelling from the earth to the sun at the ordinary rate of a cannonball, would take twenty-five years to reach the sun. The planet Neptune, according to the latest information, is 2,794,000,000 miles distant from the sun. A cannon-ball would take eight hundred years to travel thence to the sun. There are stars outside our planetary system which are a million times further from us. Light which travels at the rate of 24,000 miles a second would take many millions of years to reach these stars. Around our sun the remove eight larger and two hundred and eighty smaller planets. The nearest (Mercury) is thirty-six million miles distant from the sun, and the most distant (Neptune) over two billion miles. There are also in the heavens thirty million fixed stars, all of them real suns and mostly larger than our sun, and around these move many other heavenly bodies. All these God has created out of nothing. How infinite, then, is the power of God! Think also of the miracles wrought by Christ, the raising of Lazarus, the stilling of the tempest, etc., the healing of the lame man at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple, the wonders that are now being worked at Lourdes; Who shall declare the powers of the Lord, or set forth all His praises?
The Universe is vast. And far too perfect to have simply happened by chance. How could all of that just have happened by chance? We did not just happen to be at the right distance from the Sun. God loved this into being. He loved us into being. Over this month, as we journey through this year of faith. Let us deepen our faith in God. Seeing him as a loving God. Who created us out of love, and at the same time makes demands on us. We have the responsibility to be full of joy for the gifts that God gave us. Society and culture has to see us a happy Church. A joy filled Church. A Church that knows God loves us and we love Him back. Not that we turn a blind eye to sin in the world. But that we are a Church who shows that even if we are sinners, and sinners we are, there is still hope, because our God has conquered sin and death. And has invited us into His marvelous life.
Next time, we will begin with our own response to God’s love. Original Sin and God’s second invitation for us to become a new creation in Jesus Christ.