STRONG FAITH AND WEAK FAITH
Jesus said to them that followed him: Amen, I say to you, I have not found so great faith in Israel. (Gospel of Sunday. Matt. viii. 1, 13).
He that loves Jesus Christ believes all His words, and his Faith is most perfect whose love of God is most perfect. Whoever loves a person believes all that proceeds from the lips of that person; consequently the more a soul loves Jesus Christ, the more lively and unshaken is her Faith. When the Good Thief beheld our Redeemer, though He had done no ill, suffering death upon the Cross with such patience, he began at once to love Him; under the influence of this love, and of the Divine light which then broke upon his soul, he believed that this was truly the Son of God, and begged not to be forgotten by Him when He should have passed into His kingdom.
Faith is the foundation of Charity; but Faith afterwards receives her perfection from Charity. His Faith is most perfect whose love of God is most perfect. Charity produces in man not merely the Faith of the understanding, but the Faith of the will also: those who believe only with the understanding, but not with the will, as is the case with sinners who are perfectly convinced of the Truths of the Faith, but who do not choose to live according to the Divine Commandments, — such as these have a very weak Faith; for had they a more lively belief that the grace of God is a priceless treasure, and that sin, because it robs us of this grace, is the worst of evils, they would assuredly change their lives. If, then, they prefer the miserable creatures of this earth to God, it is because they either do not believe, or because their Faith is very weak. On the contrary, he who believes not only with the understanding, but also with the will, so that he not only believes, but has the will to believe in God, the Revealer of Truth, from the love he has for Him, and rejoices in so believing, — such a one has a perfect Faith, and consequently seeks to make his life conformable to the truths that he believes.
Weakness of Faith, however, in those who live in sin, does not spring from the obscurity of Faith; for though God, in order to make our Faith more meritorious, has veiled the objects of Faith in darkness and secrecy, He has at the same time given us such clear and convincing evidence of their truth, that not to believe them would argue not merely a lack of sense, but sheer madness and impiety. The weakness of the Faith of many persons is to be traced to the wickedness of living. He who, rather than forego the enjoyment of forbidden pleasures, scorns the Divine friendship, would wish there were no law to forbid, and no chastisement to punish, his sin; on this account, he strives to blind himself to the Eternal Truths of Death, Judgment, and Hell, and of Divine justice; and because such subjects strike too much terror into his heart, and are too apt to mix bitterness in his cup of pleasure, he sets his brain to work to discover proofs, which have at least the look of plausibility, and by which he allows himself to be flattered into the persuasion that there is neither soul, nor God, nor hell, in order that he may live and die like the brute beasts, without laws and without reason.
And this laxity of morals is the source whence have issued, and still issue daily, so many books and systems of Materialists, Indifferentists, Deists, and Naturalists. Some among them deny the Divine Existence, and some Divine Providence, saying that God, after having created men, takes no further notice of them, and is heedless whether they love or hate Him, whether they be saved or lost; others, again, deny the goodness of God, and maintain that He has created numberless souls for hell, becoming Himself their tempter to sin, that so they may damn themselves, and go into everlasting fire, to curse Him there for ever!
Oh, ingratitude and wickedness of men! God has created them in His mercy, to make them eternally happy in Heaven; He has poured on them so many lights, benefits, and graces, to bring them to Eternal Life; for the same end He has redeemed them at the price of so many sorrows and sufferings; and yet they strive to deny all, that they may give free rein to their vicious inclinations! But no, let them strive as they will, the unhappy beings cannot wrest themselves from remorse of conscience, and the dread of the Divine vengeance. Oh, if they would but once forsake sin, and apply themselves earnestly to the love of Jesus Christ, they would then most certainly cast away all doubts about things of Faith, and firmly believe all the truths that God has revealed!*
*St. Alphonsus published a dogmatic work, The Truth of the Faith, in which he clearly showed the folly of all the systems of modern unbelievers. — EDITOR.
The true lover of Jesus Christ keeps the Eternal Truths constantly in view, and orders all his actions according to them. Oh, how thoroughly does he who loves Jesus Christ understand the force of that saying of the Wise Man, Vanity of vanities, and all is vanity; that all earthly greatness is mere smoke, dirt and delusion; that the soul’s only welfare and happiness consist in loving her Creator, and in doing His blessed will; that we are, in reality, no more than what we are before God; that it is of no use to gain the whole world, if the soul be lost; that all the goods in the world can never satisfy the human heart, but only God Himself; and, in fine, that we must leave all in order to gain all.
Charity believeth all things (1 Cor. xiii. 7). There are other Christians, — though not so perverse as the class we have mentioned, who would fain believe in nothing, that they may give full scope to their unruly passions, and live on undisturbed by the stings of remorse, — there are others, I say, who believe indeed, but their Faith is languid; they believe the most holy Mysteries of Religion, the Truths of Revelation contained in the Gospel, — the Trinity, the Redemption, the holy Sacraments, and the rest; still they do not believe all. Jesus Christ has said: Blessed are the poor; Blessed are they that hunger; Blessed are they that suffer persecution; Blessed are you when men shall revile you and shall say all manner of evil against you (Matt. v. 3-11). This is the teaching of Jesus Christ in the Gospel. How, then, can it be said, that those believe in the Gospel who say: “Blessed are those who have money! Blessed are those who suffer nothing! Blessed are those who can take their amusements; and pitiable is the man that suffers persecution and ill-treatment from others!” We must certainly say of such as these, that either they do not believe the Gospel, or that they believe only a part of it. He who believes it all esteems it his highest fortune, and a mark of the Divine favour in this world, to be poor, to be sick, to be mortified, to be despised and ill-treated by men. Such is the belief and such the language of one who believes all that is said in the Gospel and has a real love for Jesus Christ.