Solemnity of St. Joseph: Model of Commitment in Faith and Hope
Here we will briefly explore only faith and hope. Let us begin with faith. What is faith, and what does it mean to say we have it?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines faith as "the theological virtue by which we believe in God and believe all that he has said and revealed to us, and that Holy Church proposes for our belief, because he is truth itself. By faith man freely commits his entire self to God. For this reason the believer seeks to know and do God's will. The righteous shall live by faith" (1814). We find that St. Joseph's life mirrored that definition of faith.
It is important to understand that faith is a gift. As such, it must be freely accepted. And, as such, it can also be freely rejected. That is, if we fail to respond to this wondrous gift so necessary to live as a child of God, so necessary in order to seek true life in a share in the divine life of God, we might well lose it. A gift of such magnitude is to be nourished, cherished and guarded as the treasure it is. Further, note that by faith we believe all that God has said and revealed, including what he has revealed through the holy Catholic Church. This means we believe the Church; we assent with intellect and will to the teaching of the Church (the Magisterium). Therefore it is possible to say that those Catholics who obstinately persist in dissent from the Magisterium, provided they are not doing so out of invincible ignorance, lack faith.
But how can dissent be an indication of lack of faith? The answer is self-evident: the theological virtue of faith disposes us to assent with intellect and will to all that God has revealed. For Catholics, divine revelation consists in the threefold oneness of Tradition, Scripture and Magisterium. Vatican II clearly taught that the bishops in union with the roman pontiff are the divinely instituted pastors of the Church and successors of the apostles. Therefore the Magisterium speaks the mind of Christ (see Lumen gentium 20). If the teaching of the Church is rejected, then what God has revealed is to some degree also rejected, hence a lack of faith is evident.
Some will object, insisting that the above citation from Lumen gentium is merely an example of the Magisterium attempting to grant to itself authority. But such a view is entirely illogical and unbiblical (see Mt. chapters 16:17 ff. and 18:15 ff.). For if Christ had not instituted bishops as successors to the apostles, the apostles' ministry of transmitting the Gospel to all nations, a ministry itself instituted by Christ, would have died with them. Future generations in the Church would therefore be stranded on an isle of uncertainty and tumult, destined to quickly sink into the abyss of disunity and falseness.
Let us move on to hope: "Hope is the theological virtue by which 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 grace of the Holy Spirit" (CCC 1817). In hope we are moved to desire the end-goal of our life and disposed to trust that Christ will get us there, relying on the goodness, power and grace of the Holy Spirit whose love will see us safely through to that end: the Beatific Vision and supernaturally-infused bliss.
Here a story will be helpful in aiding us in our understanding of these two theological virtues:
Suppose God were to hand us a treasure map, and on it, marked by a bold "X," is the location of a buried fortune in gold. By the infused theological virtue of faith, we believe the map to be entirely true and accurate the moment God hands it to us. But it is not enough to simply believe the information on the map, for that will not get us to the treasure. Now we must set off in search of it; however, the fortune is located in a far off land, buried amidst great dangers. The journey, in fact, is so hazardous that we fear it is impossible to successfully complete. Thus, regardless of the treasure's worth, it seems pointless to begin the search.
Here is where the infused theological virtue of hope comes into play. This virtue moves us to trust that God will first give us the strength and grace to begin the journey, rescue us if we find ourselves trapped in overgrown terrain, and scare off any wild beasts that hungrily lurk in the forest. Thus it is by the theological virtue of hope that we are moved to act on the information contained in the map, since we are convinced that God in his infinite goodness will not allow our failure -- provided for our part that we try our best.
Of Saint Joseph, St. Bernadine of Siena wrote: "There is a general rule concerning all special graces granted to any human being. Whenever the divine favor chooses someone to receive a special grace, or to accept a lofty vocation, God adorns the person chosen with all the gifts of the Spirit needed to fulfill the task at hand."
As St. Bernadine tells us, Joseph was "chosen by the eternal Father as the trustworthy guardian and protector of his greatest treasures, namely, his divine Son and Mary, Joseph's wife. He carried out this vocation with complete fidelity until at last God called him, saying: Good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord"
God too calls each of us to a lofty, sublime and eternal vocation: to live in free and loving obedience as members of the divine family, as adopted sons and daughters of God, that we may attain to unending happiness. There lies our destiny. It begins now, here, today. And in faith we believe what God has said, in hope we trust that he will make it so. Amen! Amen!
F. K. Bartels is a Catholic writer who knows his Catholic Faith is one of the greatest gifts a man could ever receive. He is a contributing writer for Catholic Online. Visit him also at catholicpathways.com
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Saint Joseph, Holy Family, the solemnity of st. joseph, husband of mary, theological virtues of faith and hope, faith, hope, F. K. Bartels
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