St Francis Q&A

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Interesting but complex questions!

Here are two questions from anonymous bloggers:

1) “We've noted many times here that many people do not believe that Jesus was God, some of whom have never given it any thought. What does the Church believe about some people's failure to consider Christ or believe in Him? Does God reveal Himself to some and not others, or is it due to some failure on the part of a person who does not believe?”

This is actually a timely question as we have just celebrated the feast of the Epiphany which has a special focus on the manifestation of Christ to all nations, and not just Israel. So, God reveals himself to all. It is the mission of the Church to reveal God fully in Jesus Christ, and to offer all the opportunity for happiness in this life and in the next. The following paragraph (#1260) from the Catechism reminds us that happiness and salvation are offered to all. It also comments on those who haven’t received the fullness of God’s revelation through no fault of their own:

“’Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery (Gaudium et Spes, Vatican II).’ Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity.”

Now, let’s consider those who have knowledge of Jesus Christ and the Church’s call to live out His Gospel. If they knowingly and freely fail to consider Christ or believe in Him, they fail to consider true love and happiness in this life, first and foremost. In other words, they won’t know love and happiness in their lifetimes on earth. In addition, they put their happiness in the next life in great jeopardy. It’s all about they know: if they know that Jesus is the Christ and fail to believe in Him in their lives, then they sin gravely against the first commandment. If their knowledge is full and choice is free, then they commit mortal sin which is separation from God’s love and friendship. “If it is not redeemed by repentance and God's forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ's kingdom and the eternal death of hell, for our freedom has the power to make choices for ever, with no turning back” (CCC, # 1861).

2) “I had an interesting question posed to me today. I was asked if I thought trust and faith were the same thing. I was told that perhaps I was confusing the two. Maybe. I was told that trust is based on evidence while faith extends beyond reason. Would that mean that faith is NOT based on evidence? Wouldn't that make faith, at least sometimes, unreasonable? And what human being is totally trustworthy or totally untrustworthy? If we trust based on evidence alone, what human being could we reasonably trust?”

Interesting but complex questions! Webster’s dictionary equates trust with hope. And, we know that while faith and hope are interrelated, they are distinct theological virtues. Per the Catechism, faith is a gift from God and a human act; it is “man’s response to God” (#26) and to the truth that God has revealed. I think it’s safe to say that God gives us “evidence” about Himself and that faith means assenting to it. The Church herself points to the evidence of the Resurrection as “reasons” for believing that it happened. Faith does involve reason; an example of faith without reason is 9/11 (believing that God’s Will was to fly airplanes into buildings).

Hope is centered on our happiness. It stems from the desire in every human heart for happiness. Trust that God is our happiness is inherent to us, then. We trust that the faith we are putting in God will result in our happiness. We trust that what God has revealed and promised will be fulfilled. The Catechism also links hope with trust: “we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the Holy Spirit” (#1817).


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