The latest in our series explaining & decoding the Catechism of the Catholic Church or what does the faith really proclaim.
In our last entry we talked about Scripture and how along with manifestations and tradition both oral & written, God reveals himself to man.
The question now before us is this: How does man respond to that revelation by God of himself? The answer? Faith
143 By faith, man completely submits his intellect and his will to God
That faith is illustrated in Scripture. The Catechism gives the examples of Abraham
146 Abraham thus fulfils the definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1: “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”: “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” Because he was “strong in his faith”, Abraham became the “father of all who believe”.
and Mary noting both her faith when presented with the incredible news that she would bear God’s son and her faith through what came after:
149 Throughout her life and until her last ordeal when Jesus her son died on the cross, Mary’s faith never wavered. She never ceased to believe in the fulfilment of God’s word. and so the Church venerates in Mary the purest realization of faith.
The concept of being able to still have faith after such an experience is the very definition of a heroic faith.
Faith in an individual act, and as Christians we are called upon through our faith to believe in God, Father, Son & Holy Spirit. This is the very definition of Christianity.
This belief and the faith necessary to have it is a great example of the nature of man, for the grace to believe comes from God but man must contribute his free will to exercise that gift. Grace opens the door but we must proactively walk through. As the Catechism puts it quoting St. Thomas Aquinas :
155 In faith, the human intellect and will co-operate with divine grace: “Believing is an act of the intellect assenting to the divine truth by command of the will moved by God through grace.”
And while many of our friends who don’t believe say otherwise this faith is not divorced from reason. After all we have the eyewitness of the Apostles, their writings, the scriptures and those witnessed events from the time of Abraham to the miracles of this present day to back them up. After all something turned a bunch of guys hiding in an upper room in fear into men so filled with faith that they were willing to die horrible deaths to advance it.
Now it’s true that some might see events might be hard to understand but that’s were both the light of God and the desire of man to understand and seek truth and understanding which feed on each other to perfect faith:
158 …In the words of St. Augustine, “I believe, in order to understand; and I understand, the better to believe.”
Additionally one must remember that God and truth do not and can not conflict. That includes scientific truth. As our understanding of the world around us increases so does our understanding of God’s place & plan in it. Those who would reject science proclaiming they are following God and those who think science is a club to hit belief with are pretty much the same thing.both attempt to ignore or rewrite reality to compensate a lack of faith.
Bottom line “methodical research” to discover what is, is simply finding out about the work of the great I AM.
And this faith & belief is an act of free will and moreover MUST be freely made. In the church today for example it takes. Neither Christ nor his Apostles forced belief in fact in his famous discourse in John about being the living bread that so outraged some of his followers that many left he says to the twelve:
Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.” John 6:67-69
Christ invites his apostles to leave if they wish but they have the faith to stay because they have the understanding that faith and the perseverance in it is required to get to salvation.
What people, particularly our protestant friends often don’t get is that faith is in itself a work and moreover to manage that perseverance in faith one must work at keeping it strong through that work we walk the path to eternal life that so many have not only walked before but have given us their example of how to do it.
We might not understand the entire trip, particularly with the world pressing around us but if we keep to that GPS that is the lives of the saints, the examples of the disciples, of Mary & of Abraham we will get to our goal.
And that is not just through them but through each other as we profess these truths to other either by evangelization or together as we profess the creed at Mass.
This illustrates a great truth because from the first moment that Peter assured the crowds that the Apostles were not drunk (Acts 2) to the great Church counsels at Jerusalem, Nicaea Vatican II to Pope Francis today it is the Church that continues to work to sustain the faith, express the faith and teach the faith as Christ commanded and carefully guards the truth’s within
171 The Church, “the pillar and bulwark of the truth”, faithfully guards “the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints”. She guards the memory of Christ’s words; it is she who from generation to generation hands on the apostles’ confession of faith. As a mother who teaches her children to speak and so to understand and communicate, the Church our Mother teaches us the language of faith in order to introduce us to the understanding and the life of faith.
Even as various churches redefine marriage and sin (did you know all the protestant denominations condemned birth control before 1930?) the catholic church preserves the faith as it is, when popular or unpopular, as St. Irenaeus, quoted in the Cataclysm says
173 “Indeed, the Church, though scattered throughout the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, having received the faith from the apostles and their disciples. . . guards [this preaching and faith] with care, as dwelling in but a single house, and similarly believes as if having but one soul and a single heart, and preaches, teaches and hands on this faith with a unanimous voice, as if possessing only one mouth.”59
174 “For though languages differ throughout the world, the content of the Tradition is one and the same. the Churches established in Germany have no other faith or Tradition, nor do those of the Iberians, nor those of the Celts, nor those of the East, of Egypt, of Libya, nor those established at the centre of the world. . .”60 The Church’s message “is true and solid, in which one and the same way of salvation appears throughout the whole world.”61
And that expression of that faith is illustrated in the Creeds of the Church and that’s where we’ll pick things up next time.