MAY 1996

Certainly, in Christianity, charity is the most important virtue. The writings of the New Testament leave no room for doubt about this.

But is charity possible without faith? The nature of love is such that it requires you to be completely ordered to the beloved. But a person who doesn't know God, a person to whom God remains inaccessible, a person to whom God is a complete mystery, cannot love God. It is faith, the virtue that unveils the face of God to us. Charity, therefore, is the perfection of Christian life, but it necessarily assumes faith: faith is a way of knowing God made possible only because God has revealed Himself. On the one hand, it was God's free will to communicate Himself to man through Revelation; on the other hand, man can now know God through the organ of faith, a living faith that enables him to welcome divine revelation and establish a relationship of love with God.

Faith is in the spiritual life, what sight and hearing are in man's physical life. Man enters into contact with the world through sight and hearing. Likewise, man enters into contact with God through faith; and God, on the other hand, can communicate Himself to man because man is now enabled to listen to God's Word and to see the face of God in a mystical experience which theologians call "the experience of the spiritual senses."

Therefore, there can be no love without faith. Faith is, however, ordered to love.

Without faith, the human spirit does not have the proper organ to enter into a relationship with God. Furthermore, this relationship with God will be more intimate the more pure one's faith is. Faith can grow indefinitely without exhausting one's knowledge of God. In our Christian journey there is a natural progression from faith to vision...

If we truly wish to live the primacy of charity, we should strive to live with a faith that grows purer and becomes more living every day. I am speaking here of a faith that makes the face of God every day more present and more real to us. A person without faith can have religious sentiments, but only a person with faith can establish a real relationship with God.

We should examine our conscience frequently and see if we are really cultivating this relationship with God in our religious life. If we lose contact with the presence of God, our religious life risks becoming a mere aesthetic experience or a pure pursuit of moral virtue and nothing more. Undoubtedly, we live our relationship with God through religious practices, but these practices are void of meaning, spiritually speaking, if they are not performed as a means towards a relationship with a living and present God.

We must realize that our commitment to live this relationship with God requires constant vigilance, because it is very easy to be satisfied with completing a religious exercise and stopping there: in which case, the exercise is religious only by name.

Theologians admit the qualitative difference between religion and faith. In a religion without faith, man still remains prisoner of the present world and does not achieve areal relationship with God. Indeed, only with faith does man have the ability to establish a real relationship with God, only with faith can man reach God; only with faith can man listen to, contemplate and be in a real communion with God.

We must examine our conscience often concerning our prayer. When we pray, do we really speak to Someone who is listening to us? Do we really manage to transcend sense experience and rise to a spiritual one, one involving a really lived faith? How much time was lost in our exercises of piety, when God remained unknown to us and we were just satisfied to live as prisoners of this world.

Let us revive our faith every day and especially when we are called to perform the duties of religious life: the Liturgy of the Hours, listening to the Word of God, interior prayer (and we must devote a certain amount of time every day even to interior prayer).

No, God's world is not far from us. But the present world must become more and more a sign of God's Presence and nothing more. We must constantly pass from mere sense experience, to the experience of faith. Creatures should not point to themselves -they should point instead to God, they should be a sign of God's loving presence. Such is the Pasch (Passage) that we should live every day, the passage from shadow to truth, from promise to fulfillment, from waiting to encounter, or better yet, to a true communion with a God who loves us and gives Himself to each of us, in an immense faithful love.

The Father
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