This sermon was given by Fr. Francois Laisney on October 7, 1986 at Post Falls, Idaho and published in the March 1987 issue of The Angelus magazine.
In the Holy Gospel you have just heard, the Angel Gabriel announced to the Blessed Virgin Mary that she would conceive and bring forth a Child, the Savior. What was the answer of the Blessed Virgin? An act of Faith! She believed what the Angel told her; she believed that by the virtue of the Most High, by the virtue of the Holy Ghost she will conceive in her womb and bring forth a Child.
St. Elizabeth said to her: "Blessed art thou who hast believed." My dear brethren, in these times of unbelief, of the general apostasy, I think it is important to meditate on the virtue of faith, and on this great example given to us by the Blessed Virgin Mary throughout all her life.
What is the virtue of faith? What is its value? What is its greatness? The virtue of faith, my dear brethren, is very simple. God speaks and you believe what He says. God speaks through the prophets or through His only-begotten Son or through angels, as in this Gospel, and we believe what He says. We engrave the word of God in our intelligence solidly—that is faith. We can give a definition of the virtue of faith. Faith is the full adhesion of our intelligence to the Divine Truth revealed by God and taught by the Church.
It is the full adhesion of our intelligence to Divine Truth. Faith is not a mere opinion; there is no doubt, there is no hesitation in the act of faith; there is a completely full adhesion of our intelligence. It is very important, my dear brethren, because we live in a modern world where everything is put into question, a world refusing certitudes, a world where dogmas are reduced to mere opinions.
You have probably heard of a program called "Renew." It is not renewing anything! It is destroying everything! This program called "Renew" destroys the Faith, because it reduces faith to the level of opinion.
How does it work? The modernists organize people into little groups and they say, "What do you want to talk about?" "We want to talk about the Bible, about sometimes saying the rosary, or about exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, or whatever." Everyone expresses his point of view. Then, if someone says, "Oh, I don't believe in that, it is not true, I don't believe in the Stations of the Cross, or exposing the Blessed Sacrament, or praying the rosary," someone else may try to defend the Faith, saying, "The rosary was given by the Blessed Virgin Mary herself to St. Dominic, so we must love this prayer, we must have it in our families every day." Then the leader of the Renew group says, "You can't impose your opinion on this one; let everyone of you keep his own opinion." By saying this, he reduces faith to the level of an opinion; it is no longer the virtue of Faith.
The Renew program destroys the virtue of faith by reducing it to the level of an opinion. No, faith is not an opinion. Faith is the full adhesion of our intelligence to the Divine Truth. It is the highest certitude we can have here below, because it is based on the authority of God revealing, as we will discuss later.
It is the adhesion of our intelligence. Indeed, faith is not in our emotions, it is not a question of emotion—I like it, I don't like it. No, it is a question of "What did God say? What is the truth?" Some people would prefer that abortion is not a sin, but they can't change it; it is a very grievous sin. It is not a question of opinion, a question of I like it or I don't like it. It is a question of truth. It is a question belonging to our intelligence and not of our emotions. This has consequences in our spiritual life.
By faith, our spiritual life is established on the unshakeable rock of Jesus Christ. Whatever may come in our emotions—consolations, desolations, trials, persecutions, scandals—none of these should ever shake our faith. None of this is able to change the Divine Truth. Whether we feel it or not, whether His ministers are faithful or not, whether we are honored or persecuted, this does not alter the Infinite Divine Goodness and Truth. Thus our spiritual life should never be deeply shaken by these exterior happenings or emotions. "The just man lives by faith." His interior life is built on the Rock; it is in peace.
Faith is the full adhesion of our intelligence to the Divine Truth revealed by God and taught by the Church
Faith is our full adhesion of our intelligence to Divine Truth. Indeed, this is what we know by faith. It is very difficult for man to know about God by his own natural strength. We can know a little bit, but it is very difficult, and only a few people reach this knowledge of God after long studies and with many mistakes. But God in His infinite Wisdom and Goodness, deigns to speak to us and to enable many people to know Him easily, with great certitude and without any error. He manifested His divine attributes, and even above His divine attributes, I would say, God lets us know by faith His inner life, the life of the Most Holy Trinity-God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Ghost—the Three Persons in one God.
That is what we know by faith. Faith is greater than all the sciences of the world because by faith you don't know just the creatures, you know the Creator, and a little knowledge of the Creator is of much more importance, is of much more value than a lot of knowledge of earthly things. Thank God that you know the Divine Truth. By faith, not only do we know God in Himself and as the Creator, we also know Him as Principle and Goal of our life. And by it you know also the way to go to God. What is the way to go to God? It is Jesus Christ Our Lord: "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life" (Jn. XIV, 6).
Faith is the greatest virtue of the intelligence
Faith is the full adhesion of our intelligence to the Divine Truth revealed by God. That is very important, my dear brethren. "Revealed by God," this is the motive of our faith. Why do we believe? Because God has spoken. What God has said, we believe! We don't believe what we want, we don't pick and choose among Divine Revelation; we believe all because all has been revealed by God.
God has spoken through the prophets in the Old Testament; each prophet was announcing a little more about the Savior to come, but when the Son of God Himself came down upon earth He put the Deposit of Faith at its perfection. Nothing can be added to what Jesus Christ, God, has said. The Deposit of Faith was full, complete, at the death of St. John the Apostle. The role of the pope in the New Testament, the role of the Church, is "not to teach a new doctrine but to keep entirely and to expose faithfully the Deposit of Faith," according to the words of Pope Pius IX when he defined the dogma of the infallibility of the pope. If anyone picks and chooses from the Divine Revelation, and says, "I accept this dogma but I refuse that one," he has lost the virtue of faith, because he makes himself judge of Divine Revelation. He no longer believes what God has revealed, he believes what he has chosen to believe. Thus, the motive of our faith is the fact that God has revealed.
We must not re-interpret the Faith. We accept it fully as it is taught by the Church. Yes, indeed, my dear brethren, it is through the Apostles, through the generations and generations of holy popes, bishops, doctors and saints, that we have received the Deposit of Faith. This is important in our times in which we are given the impression that we have something to learn from the Protestants, the Muslims, from the Buddhists, or whatever. That is not true! We have something to learn from the saints, from the doctors of the Church, from the holy popes, but not from Protestants! If there is anything good in Protestantism we can find it in the saints of the Church and much better! We have to learn from St. Augustine, from St. Jerome, from St. Leo the Great, from St. Gregory, from St. Thomas Aquinas, from St. Theresa, from St. Pius X, etc., not from outside the Church!
Faith is the virtue of the little child
Thus, I explained the definition of the virtue of Faith: the full adhesion of our intelligence to the Divine Truth revealed by God and taught by the Church. Now, my dear brethren, in order to increase your faith, to increase your love for the faith, that you may cherish the Catholic Faith, you have to consider the value of your faith. What is the value of your faith? In one word, my dear brethren, your faith is the beginning of everlasting life! The virtue of faith is truly the beginning of everlasting life. Our Lord said: "He that believeth in Me hath everlasting life." He did not say,"…will have everlasting life"; He says, "hath everlasting life." He already now has everlasting life, a beginning of everlasting life. The seed is truly the beginning of the life of a tree; it is the same life in the seed and in the tree. In a similar way, faith is the seed of the life that we shall have in Heaven.
The virtue of faith is truly the beginning of everlasting life
In order to understand that, my dear brethren, it is important, it is helpful, to consider the highest mystery of our Faith, the Mystery of the Holy Trinity. What is the life of God, my dear people? What is God doing, what has God been doing for all eternity? You might say, "Well, He is taking care of us." But before we existed, what did He do? "He created the world." But before He created the world, what did He do? What is God doing for all eternity? Our poor little human words are very inadequate to express so high a mystery. However, in His infinite wisdom and goodness, God deigned to give us an insight into His inner life in the Holy Gospel. And so, with the Church, we can say that God, being a pure Spirit, knows Himself perfectly and He loves Himself perfectly. God knows Himself and when you know something well, you can speak about it; God knows Himself so perfectly that He pronounces One Eternal Word, the perfect expression of Himself, the Word of God, the Son of God.
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. In the beginning the Word was with God." The Word of God is Jesus Christ, Our Lord, the Eternal Wisdom, the Eternal Son of the Eternal Father. The Father loves the Son, the Son loves the Father. It is impossible that the Father does not love the Son, or that the Son does not love the Father, and from this common love proceeds, like a Flame of Love, the Holy Ghost! St. Pius X teaches in his catechism that "the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father and the Son by way of love." That is the Eternal Life of the Most Holy Trinity. Life of perfect, infinite knowledge of Himself, and of Love of Himself.
My dear brethren, it is in this Divine Life that you are called to share everlastingly in Heaven. To know God, to see God in Heaven, to love God, the beatific love of God, the Beatific Vision. Our Lord said: "This is eternal life, to know Thee, the Mighty Father, and He whom Thou hast sent, Jesus Christ." That eternal life of knowledge of God, of love of God, you begin it here below by faith and by charity—not by faith alone, but by a "faith working through charity," as St. Paul says. Thus this life of faith and charity here below is the beginning of everlasting life.
When you realize that, my dear brethren, for nothing would you lose your faith! You are ready to suffer anything to keep your faith, even death like the martyrs. Why did the martyrs accept death so willingly, and with joy? Because they knew that the faith they had was the beginning of eternal life; and though executioners were able to take away from them the life of their body, they were not able to take away this everlasting life of their soul. And they understood that it was much more important for them to keep this everlasting life of their soul by faith than to keep the life of their body.
You might say: "But Father, why do we have to pass through faith in order to go to everlasting life?" Well, first, faith is the proper of children. When you are a little child, you do not want big explanations, you just believe what your parents say. When you grow, when you become a teenager, you want to have a demonstration, you want to be able to understand; you ask why this, why that, but when you are a little child, your parents tell you something, and that's it! Faith is the virtue of the little child and before Our Father in Heaven you must be a little child here below, a little child of God.
Secondly, because what we know by faith like in the mystery gives us the desire to see, and that is very important. You must have this desire to see God; you must be devoured by this hunger, I would say, by this thirst for seeing God. I was shown a chalice on which was written "Deus sitit sitiri" which means, "God wants to be desired." He wants that we long for Him. St. Thomas Aquinas teaches that the degree in which we shall see God is the degree of our desire to see Him here below.
Many Catholics live without sufficient desire of Heaven. They live here below and they try to be good here below in a comfortable life without this constant desire for the Heavenly life. It is very important, my dear brethren, to have this constant desire for the Heavenly life. Long to see God one day! The more you desire Him, the more you shall receive Him. There is a beautiful Psalm which says, "Open wide your mouth and I shall fill it." The more you desire God, the more God will give Himself to you. That is true especially in the Blessed Sacrament, which is the Mystery of Faith. To have a foretaste of the Heavenly things through the veil of Faith excites our desires and thirst for seeing God without veil face to face.
So, understand the value of your faith, a beginning of everlasting life. Cherish your faith, grow in your faith, give it to your children, transmit it to your children and leave it to them as your best testament. St. Elizabeth could say, "Blessed art thou because thou hast believed." Let us follow this example of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Virgin Most Faithful. She kept the faith intact, absolutely unblemished, unstained, all her life. She did not change the Divine Revelation and we cannot change our Faith. She lived by it every day, every moment of her life, and that is why we have been given a vision in Heaven deeper than all others. Let us pray to the Blessed Virgin Mary that she obtain for us a great faith, a strong faith, a faith without any hesitation, a living faith, that will grow every day of our life so that one day we may see in Heaven the same faith that we have believed here below. Amen.