Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of July 21, 2008
Faith, hope, love lift us out of the desert
Life without theological virtues is hell on earth
My Glass is Half Full
By MARK PICKUP
Can you imagine living in a loveless world? Some people actually exist in such a terrible place. It must be like living on a desert with no water.
A loveless world is hostile to life and everything worth living for. Show me a man who wants to die and I will show you a man who lives in such a world. He has no faith, no hope, no love.
A man who has lost his desire to live has no sense of joy at knowing that God loves him - or his despair has become so complete that he has ceased to care. His heart and soul have withered on the bleak, arid and loveless landscape of his life.
Can you think of a more desperate place of human desolation? To live without faith, hope and love is not life at all. It is hell on earth.
In a recent morning devotional time, I read St. Paul's words to the Christians in Thessalonica: "We give thanks to God always for all of you, remembering you in our prayers, unceasingly calling to mind your work of faith and labour of love and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ, before our God and Father" (1 Thessalonians 1:2-3).
It contains the triad of faith, hope and love I just mentioned: It runs throughout the New Testament. Each of these virtues focuses on Christ and sits at the root of authentic Christianity. They are critically important to having a life worth living.
Faith, hope and love are known as theological virtues. They can be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (nos. 1812-1829). The Catechism uses the word "charity" interchangeably with the word "love." It says, "Charity is the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbour as ourselves for the love of God."
Faith is source of hope
Faith in Jesus Christ is the source of our hope. This produces love for God and our fellow man; this prompts believers into action of good works, which bring glory to God. Faith in Christ gives us meaning and purpose in life, or it should.
St. Paul said that love is the greatest in this trinity of theological virtues. In his immortal passage about love (1 Corinthians 13), he said, "Faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love."
You and I were created for divine love. After everything temporal has been burned away, like chaff, it will be love that remains.
Love that is united to God binds everything together in perfect harmony. That is why love is the greatest theological virtue.
Meaning and purpose
In divine love, or charity, we find meaning and purpose to our lives. Hope wells up in the Christian's heart and he discovers that this "hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us" (Romans 5:5).
But hope in what? The Christian "hopes in the glory of heaven that was promised by God to those who love him and do his will" (CCC, 1821). With God's grace, this hope enables the believer to endure to the end.
The theological virtues of faith, hope and love are activated through prayer. Without prayer they remain mere words, abstract, passive nouns. Without action, they remain ethereal concepts. Prayer ignites sterile words into action, giving them substance and making them concrete.
St. Paul spoke of a work of faith, a labour of love and endurance in hope of Jesus Christ. Virtues require responses from people. It is part of the creative partnership into which God invites Christians to be participants. They are necessary ingredients to ultimately knowing God fully in eternity just as God already knows us fully.
With faith, hope and love, we do not despair of life, regardless of its trials. With these virtues, we may be cast down by circumstances of life . . . but not conquered.
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