Low Sunday

Our Lord rebuked Saint Thomas for his unbelief and offered Thomas proof of His bodily Resurrection by allowing him to place his hand into His sacred wounds.  This conversion from incredulity to faith in Saint Thomas is recorded, as is everything in the Gospel (Saint John tells us), that we might believe and through our belief come to have life.  The life that Saint John is talking about is not merely biological life: we received that from our parents and one day that life will come to an end.  Each and every one of us here will one day, sooner or later, experience physical death: it cannot be avoided.  The life which is the result of belief that Saint John alludes to is much more than physical life: Saint John is referring to the supernatural life that Our Lord offers to us: and this is life that will never end.  In what does this faith consist?  How do we receive this supernatural life that Our Lord offers to us?

We first received a share in that supernatural life on the day that we were baptized.  At our Baptism we received the Holy Spirit into our souls for the first time.  When we were baptized we became temples of the Holy Spirit and we began to share in God’s own divine life.  As the Holy Spirit took up His abode within our souls, His very presence brought that divine life to our souls as well as certain gifts.  The presence of the Holy Spirit within us continues to bear fruit in our souls.  Faith is a gift that the Holy Spirit freely bestows upon us.  It is one of the theological virtues.  Theological virtues are so called because they have God as their object, they are known only through His revealing them, and God infuses them.  Faith is a gift that we have freely received.  Do not think that it is an accident that you are a Catholic.  It was not you that chose God; it was not even because your parents raised you in the Catholic Faith that you are a Catholic.  God has called you and you have responded.  You are not here in this Church today by accident.  God has called and you have responded: even if your response is not at the conscious level.  God has called you and He continues to call you to an ever-deeper relationship with Him: He has given us the gift of faith and we are called to deepen our faith and through our faith we will receive abundant life.

Faith is a free gift from God and yet we are also responsible for our faith.  We have to cooperate with and diligently care for the gift that God has entrusted to us.  Our faith is something which we must guard and cultivate within ourselves.  I first use the word “guard” because we live in a culture that is, in many ways, hostile towards our faith.  Whenever we receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation we make a promise in the Act of Contrition not only to avoid sin but also to avoid occasions of sin.  There is much in our culture, in particular in the media, which is an occasion of sin and we need to avoid those things.  We need to be careful about what television programs or movies we allow ourselves to watch, we must be prudent about which websites we allow ourselves to surf, we ought to be judicious about what types of books we read; we need to pay attention to the lyrics of the songs that we listen to and if those lyrics are offensive to our faith, we need to steer clear of those songs.  We ought to bear in mind the fact that our late Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, who will be beatified this weekend in Rome, coined the phrase “culture of death” to refer to the culture in which we live.  And that death which our culture breeds is not only the physical death that comes in the forms of war, abortion and contraception; it is also the spiritual death that comes from sin.

Besides being careful to guard our faith against the constant attacks in the culture, we also need to cultivate it: we need to do something to help our faith to grow.  For plants to thrive it is not enough to pull out the weeds around them: the plants also have to be watered and fertilized.  Besides merely avoiding sin and its occasions, we also need to nourish our faith.  We help our faith to grow in two ways: by continuing to learn about our faith and by putting our faith into practice.  We are not asked to have a blind faith.  God gave us an intellect as well as a soul.  Faith and reason are meant to work together.  It is permissible to ask questions about our faith and search for answers.  The more that we understand what God has revealed to us through the Scriptures and through the Teachings of the Church, the more it helps us to believe.  The more deeply we believe, the easier it becomes to put our faith into practice in our daily lives.

The Epistles of Saint James teaches that faith without works is dead.  It is not enough to say that we believe: we have to practice our faith.  Living our faith means receiving Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament with faith and devotion.  Living our faith means coming to Confession regularly and taking time to pray everyday.  Yet our faith is not only a matter of what I do at Church or while at prayer.  Living out our faith also means allowing the Sacraments and prayer to transform my life.  As Christians, we are to be followers of Jesus Christ.  Jesus said that we show our love for Him by following His commandments, and His commandments are only two: love God above everything else and love your neighbor as yourself.  Those two commandments are impossible for us to follow without God’s help: we need His grace, we need His divine assistance to love the way that He calls us to love.  Let us ask Him to increase our faith that we may follow Him more fully:

Heavenly Father, we thank you for the gift of faith and we ask You to increase our faith.  Help us to guard and cultivate this great gift that You have freely given to us.  Give us the graces that we need to root sin out of our hearts.  Grant us the strength and the courage to put our faith into practice each and every day.  May we do all that we do for Your greater glory.  Amen.

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