Wednesday, November 3, 2010


The theological virtues are faith, hope, and love. Often people want to simplify Christianity to just faith or simplify it to just love. We love things to be instant. But Christianity is not instant. It is meant to take a lifetime. So we are to take faith and develop hope. How do we do that? November is a month where we contemplate the last things. They are heaven, hell, death, and judgment. These are truths we know by faith. Still we need to internalize them so they can produce hope in us. Hope is orienting our lives towards salvation. Recognizing the eternal significance of some of our choices and the insignificance of others.

We tend to avoid focusing on the next life. The most common thing you here is not to worry. Where does that lead? We end up worrying about temporal things. How much money do we have? What do people think of us? How can we have more fun? It is not wrong to think about these things but they need to be of lesser importance than the eternal matters. That means sacrificing the temporal for the eternal. Certainly a logical thing to do. He is no fool who sacrifices what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.

One question we are faced with is whether we really believe what we confess. We accept it as true but are we willing to order our lives around those truths? Modern man has found a strange category for religious truth. We can affirm foundational truths in very strong language and still not take them very seriously. Death is one reality that makes us take them seriously. Do we really believe what we believe? If we do faith will cause us to develop the virtue of  hope. Our lives will become ordered towards heaven.

Of course the content of the faith we have matters here. When we focus on things that matter in eternity it makes a difference what we believe those things are. If we believe in double predestination then the answer is nothing matters. Who goes to heaven and hell is predetermined. Purgatory does not exist. So nothing we do in this life has any eternal consequence. All that talk about storing up treasure in heaven must be just a figure of speech or something.

If we are Armenian then we believe faith decisions matter. So we might focus on things directly related to faith. Things like worship, bible study, prayer that make our faith stronger. Evangelism is also big because we want to help others make those faith decisions. Of course Calvinists would be quick to point out how this immediately becomes about works. Doesn't this water down Sola Fide? It does. That is a good thing. Armenians would never admit that but they are much closer to the Catholic position.

So what matters for Catholics? Everything. Purgatory requires the purification from all sin - even venial sin. Suffering in any degree can be united with Christ's suffering and become redemptive. Holiness can merit many graces including the salvation of souls. It is beautiful and it is scary. We can make such a difference in so many ways. Yet we can fail to do so. So life becomes full of choices that could save souls or could damn souls including your own. This is how the virtue of hope produces the virtue of love. We are called to sacrifice for the good of others.

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