"Faith, without works is dead" (James 2:20).
"Stand fast in the faith" (1 Cor. 16:13).
Faith is necessary - indispensably necessary - to salvation, and we need hardly add that in making this statement we are speaking of the true faith taught by Jesus Christ. But it is an important matter to know where we are to find this true faith. We find it in the Catholic Church. Christ has not only taught us the truth; He founded an institution, a Church, to promulgate and preserve it. What Church did He found? That one, surely, which, as the Catholic Church alone can do, traces her origin and history right back to Christ and His apostles. All other bodies, whatever be their name, arose more recently. They are all cadets in comparison with the Catholic Church.
There is but one objection that can be urged against the conclusion that the Catholic Church is the only real heir to the truth of Christ, and it is frequently made use of. Men say: No doubt it is true that the Catholic Church is older than any other, and that in the beginning she possessed the truth. But in the course of time she deviated more and more widely from her original doctrines and then younger and more modern Churches arose and restored Christ's teaching in all its purity and freshness.
This objection is absolutely untenable because Jesus Christ not only founded a Church, but He promised that it should last forever: "The gates of hell shall not prevail against it." He further promised that He Himself and the Holy Spirit would dwell with it always when He said: "And behold I am with you always even to the consummation of the world," and "He will abide with you forever."
Could a Church so guided and supported lose the true faith? We can not consider even the possibility of such a thing, for in order to do so one must admit either that Our Lord was mistaken or that He failed to keep His word. Once that is allowed, it follows as the next step that Christ was not truly God; and whoever says so must go the rest of the way and call the entire Christian religion a myth. If the Catholic Church does not possess the truth, we need not further to seek it; it is not to be found elsewhere.
To sum up: the Faith, the true faith taught by Jesus Christ, is necessary to salvation, and is to be found in the Catholic Church alone.
Essential as it is in itself, our faith must have certain qualities if it is to contain for us the germ of eternal life. It must be entire, firm, steadfast, and living. Let us, with the help of the Holy Spirit, consider as shortly as possible the first three of these characteristics.
Our faith is to be entire.
When is it entire? It is entire when we believe not only a part, but all that the Catholic Church proposes to our belief. All the truths of faith have been revealed by the same God, all are therefore equally true; and they are all presented to us by the same Church, so they must all without exception be accepted and believed one as firmly as the other. It is by no means permissible to make a selection, that is, to choose some and to reject others, but this unfortunately is what is too often done.
Many people receive with great alacrity the sweet and consolmg doctrme of God's mercy, His patience, His willingness to forgive; they welcome the promise of the unspeakable happmess of heaven. But, suggest to them that He exacts repentance, penance, and that in His inconceivable justice He tolerates a hell to punish eternally, and they are filled with horror and refuse to accept it.
Those truths which human intelligence can grasp are to be believed; but some think that those incomprehensible mysteries of faith which our minds can not penetrate we are to be free to throw aside. This is not perfect faith - in fact, it is not in its essence faith at all. "Whosoever shall keep the whole law, but offend in one point, is guilty of all." He who denies one article of faith denies them all. If one stone of an arch loosens and slips the whole arch is surely to collapse. We must believe all that God has revealed and that the Holy Catholic Church proposes to our belief.
Good heavens! some of you may exclaim, what a task, to believe everything which God has revealed and the Church teaches! Why, I don't even know half of it. At school I learned very little and I have forgotten most of that. My intelligence is limited, my memory weak, and I go very seldom attend conferences. Can one believe a thing that one does not know? Certainly, one can! Suppose you receive a letter and you see by the writing on the envelope that it comes from a friend whom you highly respect and consider to be an absolutely truth-loving person. You know that this friend has been an eye-witness of certain occurrences which the letter details to you. Are you not satisfied that you hold in your hand an authentic and truthful account of all that happened? You believed the contents of the letter really before you read it, before you opened it, or knew what was in it. In a similar manner we must, therefore, believe all that God has revealed, even if we have not complete knowledge of it all.
Our faith must be firm.
It is firm when we do not wilfully doubt of any article of faith. Firmness is the opposite of doubt, or rather of wilful doubt, for many staunch Christians are frequently troubled and tormented with difficulties. This is not to be wondered at, for the evil spirit knows what he is doing, and when he finds his assaults in other directions make no impression then he seeks to disturb us about the truths of religion. For, if faith, the foundation of the Christian life, be once undermined, the whole structure totters and falls to the ground. Moreover, faith deals with so many unfathomable mysteries that it is an easy matter to induce people to call it in question, but as long as these doubts are not voluntary and are not wilfully entertained they are not sinful and do not in any way shake the firmness of our faith.
What, then, are we to do if we find ourselves assailed by doubts of one or other article of faith? If doubts against faith trouble you, recail to mind the rock on which your belief is built, namely, the truth of God, which is eternal and never failing, which can not err and can not lie. Say, with all your heart: "My God, I believe all Thou hast revealed; because Thou art the infallible truth I trust Thy word more than my own understanding." Excite in yourself lively sentiments of faith and boldly ignore all temptations against it.
Our faith must be steadfast.
It is steadfast when we are ready to sacrifice everything, even life itself, rather than give it up.
I read somewhere of a sailor, who, in a battle at sea, caught hold of an enemy's boat with his hand and held it tight so as to give his comrades time to come up and capture it. The enemy yelled at him to let go, but he clung on all the harder; they hurled threats at him, but he stuck to it with all the more determination. They slashed at his fingers with their swords, but he still grasped the boat with the wounded hand till it was cut right through and then he substituted the other. He preferred to lose both hands rather than to relinquish what he had secured. This must be our attitude toward the Faith. We must choose rather to part with all we have - goods, honors, position, yes, even with life itself, sooner than loosen our hold on it.
The holy martyrs are striking examples of this steadfastness. There was no advantage they were not willing to forego, no suffering they would not gladly endure for the sake of the Faith, and the later history of the Church is full of such examples in people of every age, condition, and sex. We are children of the same religion and of the same Church as they, and we ought to be ashamed if we are not ready to follow in their footsteps.
We close our instruction with the resolve to be ready to bear for our faith, if and when necessary, the ridicule and contempt of the world, and the slights and disadvantages which even in our day are not infrequently the portion of those who believe. By so doing we shall walk in the bloodstained footsteps of the saints and shall attain with them the reward, of the life to come.
Adapted from Popular Sermons on the Catechism
by Fr. Hubert Bamberg, 1914