A wealthy business man in the middle west had large signs printed and placed all over the town. He stated that if any man in the town owed debts, and would come to his office on a certain day between nine and twelve in the morning, he would pay the debts. Naturally that promise was the talk of the town. Very few believed it. They thought there was a catch somewhere.
At last the day came. The business man was in his office at nine. At ten o'clock no one had come. At eleven a man was seen walking up and down, glancing occasionally at the office door. At last he opened it, put his head in, and asked: "Is it true that you will pay any man's debt?"
"Surely," the rich man replied, "Do you owe anything?"
"I certainly do," the caller answered.
"Do you have the bills or statements with you?"
When the visitor produced the bills, the business man wrote, out a check for the total indebtedness. Before twelve o'clock two other men came, and they also received enough to meet their financial obligations. The people outside would not believe it, until all three men took from their pockets and showed the unbelievers the checks that cancelled all their bills. They groaned: "What fools we were not to go in and have our bills paid."
Now it was too late; the door was closed; the time was up.
This story shows the meaning of human faith, faith in a mere man. Today we would like to speak about divine faith, faith in God and the things of God.
Divine faith, the theological virtue of faith, means a supernatural belief in God and the truths He has made known. Divine faith is a virtue infused or poured into the soul, giving man supernatural principles that are perceived by a divine light. Faith means taking God at His word.
I. The faith necessary for salvation must be internal:
A. Sincere, that is, it must be in the mind and heart, and not merely on the lips. He cannot be saved who talks and acts like a Catholic, but does not believe like a Catholic.II. Our faith must be external:
B. Universal, that is, your faith must extend to all the things made known by God. To accept one truth and reject another, is to lack universal faith.
C. Living, namely, faith must be the root and cause of our entire spiritual life. Everything we do in a religious way is done because we believe.
A. God has promised to reward those who profess their faith in Him. "Everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowldge him before my Father in heaven." St. Matthew, 10:32.III. Sins against faith are most serious. Remember Christ's words: "He who does not believe shall be condemned." St. Mark, 16:16.
B. We profess our faith not only by words but by religious acts. To march in a Holy Name parade, to tip your hat on passing a Catholic Church, to bless yourself in a public place, is to show openly what you believe.
C. In certain circumstances one must show his faith. For example, if failure to profess your faith would bring ridicule on religion, or if your silence would mean the same as denial.
D. The martyrs suffered death for their faith.
A. Infidelity is lack of all faith, as among savages, atheists, and the like.IV. How can we strengthen and deepen our faith?1. It is no sin, if it is not the person's fault.B. Apostasy means the complete giving up of faith by a baptized Catholic.
2. Many are at fault; they refuse to learn.
C. Heresy means denying or rejecting one or more truths of faith.
D. Doubt is a thought that some religious truth is false. For example, to doubt the hereafter because no one ever came back to prove it.1. If doubts are unwanted thoughts, there is no sin.
2. Difficulties are not positive doubts. Read up on the question. Ask someone who knows.
A. Beware of the dangers:The crowd cried out today: "Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord." And blessed, happy is he who follows Christ with a deep, intelligent and virile faith.1. Wilful doubts.B. Here are some positive helps to your faith:
2. An immoral life, that is, a life not according to your faith. Every sin, especially the sin of impurity, weakens faith.
3. Reading magazines and books that attack faith. Listening to those who make little of Catholic belief. Here is one big reason for avoiding Protestant services and Protestant radio programs.
4. Keeping company with those who ridicule religion.
5. Rashly accepting every new theory that comes along.
6. Neglecting to practice your religion.1. Thoughtful and regular study of your religion, no matter how old you are. Catholic papers and magazines feed your faith, make it strong and healthy.
2. Earnest tackling of every difficulty. Get it down; don't let the difficulty get you down. There is an answer. The Catholic faith answers every question.
3. A life in line with your faith.
4. Frequent prayer for faith, especially the regular repeating of the Act of Faith and the Apostles' Creed.
5. Frequent Holy Communion and a general living up to the rules of the Church.
Take God at His word. Believe what He has made known to you - through the Bible, through Tradition, through His Church. Live according to that faith, and you will be more richly rewarded than the men who believed that the wealthy man of our story would pay their debts. God will reward your faith in Him.
Adapted from Prayers, Precepts and Virtues
by Fr. Arthur Tonne, OFM (©1949)